"Grammarnoir 4: Final Edition" Part 4: "The Chief"

March 04, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

It's National Grammar Day, huzzah! You Don't Say brings you the fourth and final installment of Grammarnoir 4: Final Edition." The previous installments:

Part 1: "A Belle in the Night"

Part 2: "The Mission"

Part 3: "The Belly of the Beast"

And now, the thrilling conclusion:

Part 4: The Chief

I knew what to expect: a little man at a big desk, a gray suit and rimless cheaters, gray skin, thinning gray hair, a voice as flat and dull as a year-in-review article. I knew corporate functionaries from way back.

“What is this about?” a voice bellowed. A female voice.

She was at a big desk, and she was big, too, with a red dress and hair some kind of blond and noisy jewelry.

The straw boss said, “He was nosing around the production hub. He won’t say anything—”

“I know who he is. Leave him.”

The straw boss closed the door behind him.

“Sit.”

I took a chair. “So you know me?”

“I know all about you. I know that you have let another moist-lipped poopsie lead you into trouble. I know your pathetic little blog and your feeble comments about how you imagine newspapers ought to operate. You don’t know anything.”

“All right, chief, so suppose you tell me all about it.”

She stood up, slamming the keyboard tray into the desk. “Don’t call me chief. I will tell you, and then you’ll take your place in the hub, and that will be the last anyone ever hears of you.”

“Maybe so.”

“Oh, I’ve been misjudged before, by the golden boys, the favorite sons, the Champions of Journalistic Excellence who ignored me and went their way with their big plans until they flamed out and I, biding my time, was left in charge.”

“In charge to do what?”

“To put an end to newspapers.”

“I thought you were running newspapers.”

“Running them into the ground. Demographics is taking too long. The more I cut out editing, the more we degrade the product, the faster readers drop away. Then, when we hit that sweet spot where print makes less than electronic, any time now, any day now, I shut down the printing plants, sack the printers, sell the trucks, and cancel the newsprint contract. We go all-electronic, eliminating reporters and editors and use free-lance writers filing to pre-formatted electronic pages at ten cents a word.”

Her face had worked up a rosy glow when the door opened and a man in a very good suit walked in, followed by a security guard.

“What’s all this about?” The Chief demanded.

“I represent Bane Capital,” the suit said, “which has acquired this company. Your company store is not hitting our profit targets, so we are shutting this operation down. The guard will stand here while you collect your personal effects, and in an hour he will escort you to the street.”

The suit left. The Chief gaped.

I went downstairs. In front of the building the released copy editors were bumbling around in the daylight, dazed. I spotted Hearst and caught his arm.

“Come along with me,” I said. “Anna’s waiting.” And we headed off to the bus station.

The end

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