Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Last newspaper reporter fired

"The printed press does not show the reporter asking the question. What is peculiar to television is that the intrusiveness is part of the story."

Last newspaper reporter fired
By Bill Shein
Berkshire Eagle
Tuesday, May 29

"I refuse to believe the headlines that the future of news organizations is bleak. We face a dim future only if we refuse to change and do something about it." - Los Angeles Times editor Jim O'Shea, in a recent memo announcing the elimination of 57 more newsroom jobs.

A DAY in the very near future.

In what Wall Street cheered as a long-overdue and welcome cost-cutting measure, the very last newspaper reporter in America was fired yesterday, capping years of newsroom cuts and officially eliminating basic newsgathering as a journalistic function.

The reporter, Ted "Inky Fingers" Mandersoll, worked for a west-coast metropolitan paper where recent staff cuts and battles between editors and corporate honchos have repeatedly made headlines.

"Well, I held on for as long as I could," a dejected Mandersoll said as he stood on a street corner holding a sign, "Will collect facts, investigate wrongdoing, and protect the public interest - for food."

That the very last newspaper reporter in America stayed on the job as long as he did is widely considered to be remarkable. For the last three months, Mandersoll was paid no salary, instead earning a dollar for each "qualified lead" produced via dating-service and mortgage-refinancing ads that accompanied the online version of his news stories. He averaged just $17 per month.

Lars von Weilsch, president and CEO of MegaInfoNews, thanked Mandersoll for his 24 years of service.

"Ted Mandersoll's award-winning stories about corporate malfeasance, government corruption, and non-celebrity-related matters are no longer relevant, but we do wish him well in his pension-less future," von Weilsch said, noting that retirement security for working people is now far less important than achieving ever-increasing profits.

He said that Mandersoll will receive valuable "outplacement assistance," including role-playing games where unemployed reporters learn to ask, "So, you gonna finish that?" Mandersoll will also receive tips about how to negotiate with creditors and then, when all hope is lost and bankruptcy inevitable, how to "slip out of town under cover of darkness."

With no reporters to pay, America's media organizations are likely to invest even more resources in upbeat, news-free, advertiser-friendly features. An informal canvass of senior media executives revealed a wide variety of ideas for The New American Newspaper, including:

A syndicated "MySpace Profile of the Day."

A colorful "American Idol" daily feature, with online tie-ins and contests.

Puzzles. Lots and lots of puzzles.

Dramatically expanded auto-trader sections, some of which may approach 1,000 advertising-heavy pages a day.

Page after page of "advertorials" promoting the products and services offered by the subsidiaries and "marketing partners" of the giant conglomerates that control America's major media outlets.

Lots of full-page advertisements touting the latest "scientific breakthroughs" in weight loss, air filtration, arch support, hair removal, hair growth, collectible coins, porcelain dolls, and those commemorative plates that are sure to increase in value by several tenths of a percent in the coming centuries.

A new, glitzy "Global Celebrity Wire" to replace in-depth coverage of irrelevant matters like foreign affairs, war, genocide, and other downers that don't put readers in a consuming mood.

Editorial pages replaced entirely by a daily version of the "Ask the White House" feature now seen only on the White House Web site.

Reaction to the firing of the last newspaper reporter in America was swift. While media reformers used phrases like "we're doomed" and "so long, democracy!" to describe the development, others were more upbeat.

"We're excited about the opportunity to provide America's newspaper readers with the unfiltered truth - directly from the mouths of administration spokespeople," said Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.

Snow joked that President Bush "might even start reading the newspaper" now that it will feature nothing but "bias-free, fact-free, content-free, wholly irrelevant material."

Ironically, the White House reporters who normally laugh at Snow's jokes didn't make a sound, because, well, there aren't any reporters left.

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