When we last checked in at the commercial printing plant down on Court Street, which also operates a newspaper, management had implemented a major crime-fighting initiative: The newspaper would no longer lard up its local news pages with articles about the day-to-day activities in downtown, the shootings and the stabbings and the robberies, and thus create the impression that Reading is a safe and wonderful place to live and visit.
That was the edict of CEO Peter Barbey. Surely, this bold decision would please his buddies in the business community. The newsroom went into revolt. Many staffers referred to Barbey as the Meddler; others dubbed him the Arizona asshole.
The honorable thing would have been for editor Harry Deitz to grow a set of stones and resign. After all, he is mere months from Social Security age and no editor of integrity should have to put up with this shit. Instead, Deitz and his top lieutenant, managing editor Dave Mowery, marched into Barbey' den to plead their case.
Here is a partial transcript of the ensuing conversation, courtesy of a fly on the wall:
DEITZ: We've got to roll back on this, Peter. We're going to lose a lot of good people. The top reporters are mailing resumes out. Our crime beat reporter has an application in at Channel 69.
BARBEY: What do I care? They can hit the pike like Forester. There are loads of out-of-work reporters we can bring right in. You laid off about fifty yourself.
DEITZ: But show some heart...
BARBEY: Heart? I am privileged. I WAS BORN PRIVILEGED! I WILL DIE PRIVILEGED!!!
(glancing around his office and harrumphing)
All this shit. Look at my shit!
I got "Citizen Kane." on repeat. "CITIZEN KANE" on repeat. Constant, y'all.
MOWERY (thinking): Yeah, you're Orson Welles. With a smaller dick.
BARBEY: (continuing) Look at my sheeyit! This ain't nuttin', I got ROOMS of this shit!
DEITZ: Peter, this doesn't look good. The bloggers are having a field day. We're losing all our credibility. Some people think you're being, uh, meddlesome.
BARBEY: Well, that's not right. OK, we can put some crime news back in. A little at a time. Don't want to make it look like we're caving on this. And it goes in the crime log. If it bleeds, it doesn't lead. I'll notify the Chamber.
MOWERY: Thanks, boss.
BARBEY: One more thing. I want more stories about Benghazi in the paper. Obama's covering up this. He's bad for business, too. That Obamacare is fucked.
DEITZ (prissily): I was born privileged.