THE SCENE: A swank TV studio, with all the zoomy, whizzy lights, giant flashing screens, deep-pile royal blue carpeting, poreless, lacquered newsbots, and hysterical black-clad assistants one could ever desire. We are in the back of the studio, in the glass-enclosed center of all the action. EDITORS 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all sitting in their leather chairs, directing the action by talking to each other, pointing at their MacBooks, and shouting into their wireless headsets. They are all in their 20’s and have just been promoted after their more experienced bosses “aged out of the business.”
EDITOR 1 (swigging a Red Bull): What’s new on Twitter? We’ve gotta have something for the next segment.
EDITOR 2 (nervously): Let’s see…Demi and Ashton just tweeted…
EDITOR 3 (yawning): Oh please. They tweet when they pee!
EDITOR 4 (pushing in excitedly): Guys, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard just got bombed! A bunch of people died and that DinnerJacket guy is blaming us and the Brits! This could be the start of a huge international incident!
(A brief silence, then:)
EDITORS 1-3 (bursting into laughter): HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
EDITOR 3 (wiping tears from her eyes): Oh, that was a good one! Like anyone cares about that crap these days.
(EDITOR 4 subsides into a humiliated silence.)
EDITOR 2 (eagerly): What about Sarah Palin? Sometimes we can just say her name and people think it’s news!
EDITOR 1 (dismissively): Nahhhh, we tried that two days ago. It bombed.
EDITOR 2 (peevishly): FINE. Uh, uh…Oooooh! (points at his MacBook) Check this out!
(All the EDITORS gather around the screen.)
EDITOR 3 (finally interested): Holy shit! A kid jumped in a balloon in a back yard and it got loose?
EDITOR 2 (proud): Huh? Huh? Is this good or what?
EDITOR 1 (shouting into his headset): Listen up, people! We’ve got something. Get ready to roll in five!
EDITOR 4: This story is unbelievable! Wow, it’s…hmmm.
EDITOR 3 (dismissively): What is it NOW?
EDITOR 4: Well, just shooting it out there, but…what if the kid was never in the balloon to begin with? Or what if he was, but he’s not now? Or what if these parents are making the whole thing up?
EDITOR 1 (after a brief pause): What are you, 25?
EDITOR 4 (nervously): Uh…26.
EDITOR 1 (smugly): I figured. God, you old people just don’t understand the business any more! (gets up and starts pacing) The story’s a win-win. If it’s a hoax, we do a story about the hoax and we milk that for a week. If it’s true, boo-hoo, the kid’s dead – we milk that for a week. If the kid arrives in the balloon safely, we milk his heroic and incredible escape for a week. (suddenly shouting) DO YOU UNDERSTAND?!
(EDITOR 4 looks cowed and ashamed. EDITORS 2 and 3 look happy and superior.)
EDITOR 1 (with chilling finality): You’re fired. (sitting down, shouting into his headset) Hey! You in the black!
(ALL the assistants whirl around at the same time, with hopeful smiles on their faces.)
EDITOR 1 (annoyed): NOT YOU! The guy with the cool hair and soulpatch. Get up here, man.
(The New Guy pumps the air with his fist, then starts making his way to the glass booth as EDITOR #4 exits ignominiously. Suddenly, EDITOR #4 stops his exit, and stands in the middle of the newsroom. He exudes a quiet and desperate dignity which is compelling enough to cause a pause in all the furious activity.)
EDITOR 4: You are all a disgrace to journalism. Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow are ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES!
(He swoops out dramatically. With a shrug, the buzzing and rushing resume.)
EDITOR 3 (yawning again): What the hell was he talking about?
THE NEW GUY: Should I Google ’em?
EDITOR 2 (completely uninterested): Whatever. (looks at his MacBook, brightens) Oooh, video!
EDITOR 1 (excitedly): Send it through!
EDITOR 3 (happily): News for a week no matter what happens. We are AWESOME!
(All the EDITORS high-five as:)