A SoCal newspaper editor passed along this fable, saying it came from a friend at the Denver Post. But I don't actually know who wrote it. (Update below.) One could imagine the conversation taking place for real at many newspapers in America.
Editor-in-Chief: (Staring at CNN coverage of Swine Flu outbreak) We need something good and local on this swine flu thing. Get someone at the university to explain how this god damned thing jumped from pigs to people, how are they tracking it, what the hell does it all mean? Get that guy who did that piece on the flu vaccine shortage a couple years ago, remember that sidebar he did on the 1918 flu? That was great.
City editor: Koprowski?
Editor-in-chief: Yeah, Koprowski!
City Editor: Corporate laid him off. Health care reporter. Non vital.
Editor-in-Chief: What about that bi-ingual girl we had covering immigration? She can go find out what the Mexicans are saying.
City Editor: She's gone, too. Diversity stories don't sell car ads.
Editor-in-chief: Don't we have anybody who covers the county health department?
City Editor: Sure, that's Barnes.
Editor-in-chief: Well, have Barnes do something.
City Editor: She's in Washington.
City Editor: Yeah. She covers government. Federal, City, County, Municipal. She covers it all. She's great.
Editor-in-Chief: What the hell is she doing in Washington? Can't she cover the delegation by phone?
City Editor: She's not covering the delegation.
City Editor: We had a local bowling team of teabag guys head to the capital to protest taxes. We sent her along.
Editor-in-chief: Good call. That'll be a good piece. Well, let's get a freelancer on it.
City Editor: You really slashed my freelance budget.
Editor-in-chief: Have Flannagan do it, he'll write it for cheap. I pay him $25 a story and he works like a... I'll call him..
* Update: A guy named David Jakubiak emails that he authored the piece at his blog, The Recession Kitchen. I have no reason to disbelieve him. Strangely, he gets a bit huffy about it. My disclaimer up top could not have been clearer, so maybe he's just a whiner.
Editor-in-chief: Timmy! It's Bowes down at the Clarion, we need you to do a story for us.
Editor-in-Chief: What's up? You don't sound good.
Flannagan: I think I got the Swine Flu
Editor-in-chief: Sheesh, you should go see a doctor.
Flannagan: Freelance. No insurance.
Editor-in-chief: Don't they have that $25 clinic down on Maple?
Flannagan: Hey, when are you guys gonna pay me for that invoice from January?
Editor-in-chief: Gotta Go, Flannagan. Call me when you feel better.
City Editor: So?
Editor-in-Chief: No go. Hey what about Soletti?
City Editor: In Sports?
Editor-in-Chief: Sure, don't Mexicans play high school sports?
City Editor: I guess. I'll check. (walks over to Soletti's desk). Hey, man, what are you working on?
Soletti: I've got to design these two features pages, then at 3:00 I have a baseball game, from there I have to shoot over to a tennis match, and then there's the spring football practice at 5:00. After that I need to come back here, write those up, get them on the page, and by then baseball scores and the playoff finals should start coming in. What's up?
City Editor: Bowes is wondering if you can get us something on swine flu for newsside?
Soletti: Are you kidding me?
City Editor: Nothing big. Just make a phone call or two and put it in the system. I'll tack it to a wire story and we'll be good.
Soletti: Dude, I'm slammed.
City Editor: Two calls. You can call that pitcher from the baseball team! What's his name?
Cabrera, right? He's Mexican. Maybe he can tell you something. Maybe someone in his family has it.
Soletti: He's Dominican.
City Editor: Oh. OK. Get me something by 3:00. OK. Big story. Total coverage.