Click Click Click

Sex Sells

The young Journo gives her article about drug trafficking to her editor an hour before deadline. He runs his finger over the lede, and it disappears. The Journo sits up, startled, then settles back down into her chair. He hates it. She focuses her gaze at the edge of the table where his remorseless fingers wipe out her hard work in a single stroke. 

"This is all wrong," he says, crossing out the first fifteen lines of the article. "We don't care where this happened. We want to know where the drugs went."

"They went into Juarez, right under the.."

"No, no, no." rebukes the Editor. "That's the dateline's job. You've got that already. Where they were hidden? These drugs were smuggled inside a woman's vagina. That's the story. How often are drugs smuggled into this country? People are numb to trends and statistics. They've tuned all that shit out."

"But my whole lede doles out trends..." she stutters, not giving up. "Border Patrol, DEA, mercenaries. I set the whole story up in the beginning." 

She still envisions her brilliant opening graf, and tries to will it back up from the dead, in her mind.

"Too much." snipes the editor. "You wanna write a feature about the drug trade, run it by me later. Just get me a picture of the chick and don't tease the reader by leaving her out."

"There's nothing salacious about it, though. It's just... sad."

"Grow a pair. It's the part of the story that sells. Focus on it. I need it in a half hour. Listen, get down to the satellite office to do some briefs, okay? Knock this out and head over there."

10 Words

Drone strikes hit American tourists in Mali, her headline reads.

"This is shit." the editor grumbles. "We don't want to know why it happened. Give me ten words that describe your gut feeling after hearing about this."

"Ok," the seasoned Journo hesitates. "And that's all you want?"

The editor stops and stares across at her. She knows the score. She should already be rattling the words off. He taps his finger impatiently.

"We need ten cycling shock heads in the next five minutes." the editor says. "I don't need copy, I need hammer heads. I ten big words cycling through that make it look like the story is developing."

"Is the story developing?" she asks.

"Not your concern. Words. Now."

"Tourist Trap." she says, not missing a beat. "I know that's two words, but..."

"No, it's good. Go on."

"Cataclysm. Um... Strike. Collateral."

"Good, six more."

The seasoned Journo should know better, but she interjects:

"Sir, I've got a friend over at the State Department who can probably..."

"I've got Dirk on that. Six more words."

"Murder. Drone Rule. Disintegration. Butchers. Illegal. That's all I got."

"It's enough. Let's slap 'em up."

The editor puts them in all caps. A 90 point font. The words dominate the page like giants' fists, squashing the story. The leads dry up in the time it takes them to get the story out first and sell it. The good news is, no one really cares why it happened. No one's thinking about accountability. Those words are getting clicked on - click click click - and each time they change up the words, the same people click click click to the same exact story they've read before.

Readers scan this news and receive emotional gut punches. These giant words, the monolithic sirens crouching over the stories of lives and tragedies and machinations - they're proclamations of emotional empathy devised solely to reach in and massage the broken hearts of the readership. Knowledge is not gained here, in this place. Knowledge is not meant to be.

What a Difference a Nipple Makes

"If I ever see a byline again without at least one nipple slip, you are all fired!" the editor barks. "There are red carpet galas every day. A camera flash hits a sheer dress,  you got one."

"The peace summit is taking over the spread." the veteran Journo says coldly. "What's more important, Israel and Palestine acknowledging each other, or side boob?"

The editor is used to Journo's insouciance, her need to wind him up. She just has to say her peace, then falls in line with the others. This time will be no different.

"I want all the readers." he says. "That's it. A whole bunch of people clicking. Some of them think world politics is boring. I want them to feel welcome."

Veteran Journo is long past asking the question 'why.' She's stopped asking the question why in her stories, and she has stopped asking it at meetings. She might have once asked: "why don't people care? Could it be because the way we present the news numbs them, creates apathy and hopelessness? Could we inform the public about things that impact them in a way that keeps them interested?"

No, Journo knows her editor too well. She does not ask the question. She holds something behind her back, a compromise that might please all quarters of the pool.

"What about this?" asks the Journo. She holds it up: a flash drive covered in scotch tape. "Pictures from a party last night attended by the aides and translators putting together the Peres / Abbas summit. A few of them got wasted and clothes came off."

"I see the headline: naked aides help along peace process." Journo's colleague offers dryly. The room laughs.

It may be lewd, but it calls attention to the monumental summit in the only way modern news can: with nude pics.

"Lots of skin, at least one nipple. I got all the pictures here if anyone wants to see 'em." says the Veteran Journo.

Her publication salivates and spreads the pics out like a scandal. It's front page news.

"NAKED ORGY HALTS PEACE PROCESS" the headline reads.

Almost immediately, both the Israeli and Palestinian camps are swamped in scandal. The top aides and translators are fired. Condemnations fly. Neither side feels prepared for the long-planned summit, and it is postponed. Due to the postponement, the top monster line the next day reads "SEX SCANDAL ROCKS PEACE SUMMIT."

Reaction to the headline is more pronounced than reaction to the so-called scandal. All those involved, those who have been planning the summit for years, working underground and in secret, are all too embarrassed to speak up. They fear any association with this scandal will obstruct future attempts at peace, so they stay quiet. Silence pervades the cancelled talks.



The sensational, feverish intensity of the global headlines, paired with the cascading tension between Israel and Palestine, and all the embarrassments and cultural stigmas that go along with them, lead to an escalation of the conflict. For sake of innuendo and readership, every single peace accord condition, every compromise, every example of flexibility, is tossed out onto the road and run over, Click click click. The day the missiles fly over the wall, no one knows which side started it. Trust between both sides deteriorates. Trust between insiders and Journalists deteriorates to where knowledge dissipates. Nothing is left except for giant gut punch words and innuendos. Gut feelings. Speculative, circular conversations.

When it's clear the war has escalated past the point of no return, the Journo's paper has already given up on the futility of real reporting. Real reporting is expensive, and largely boring. Nip slips and sheer dresses appeal to the id, the place between the brain and the mouse-clicking finger. The gentle plunk of a cash register sounds after the urge and the click.

Bombs fly. Bloody children. Families torn asunder. Partisan politics. Click click click. Affair scandals, celebrity goofs, embarrassing moments. Click click click. New media is nothing more than a Yearbook Committee for emotionally stunted adults, led by provincial trust funders with no experience of the world that isn't spied from the window of a Cessna.

The Journo is not one of these bratty new generation gossip columnists, but she has descended into their midst for the sake of hoping that somewhere on the way down the ladder, a rope will appear that she can jump to. Maybe she can climb back up. Above her, other Journos climb down, preventing her ascent. No rope appears.


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