Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Masterpiece (Of Shit) Theatre Presents: The Ghost in the Machine
INT. OFFICE – NIGHT. A pervading sense of despair, futility, and dread fills the SF Weekly newsroom. Suddenly, out of the chilling gloom, a thundering, ghostly voice – not unlike Sam Elliott’s, only meaner and without a lick of his frontier soul – shakes the walls, and Managing Editor Will Harper’s eyes dart around the room, trying to find its source.
VOICE: Will Harper … Will Harper … This is the fax machine talking. Do I sound like a guy you’d want to mess with?
HARPER: No, oh great voice in the machine. You sound like Mike Lacey.
VOICE: Goddammit, I thought we fixed that. Oh, well, at least it fooled the Justice Department. (Beep) I am spitting out a piece of paper. (Beep) It’s your next story. We already have a headline: “Unfair Lawsuit Act.” The folks here in Phoenix think that’s a really catchy title. And get a load of the deck: “SF Weekly moves to dismiss the Guardian's lawsuit, which is light on witnesses and evidence.”
HARPER: Wow, that’s just the kind of unprejudiced fact-finding that separates the Weekly from those lefty rags like the Guardian.
VOICE: Put that in the story! Oh, and in the first paragraph, you’ll point out that I grew up in New York, and that I am “famously unafraid of a fight in life or business.”
VOICE (as the lights on the fax machine blink an angry red): YES, FAMOUSLY!
HARPER: Okay, okay. But won’t any intelligent reader see this article as a transparent, desperate attempt by a megalomaniacal owner to use his own newspaper to pursue a personal vendetta against his competitor? We don’t pay that much attention to local news, especially local news that nobody else is writing about. This story is over 2,500 words -- hell, we wouldn’t write that much if the mayor was found face-down in a pile of coke.
VOICE: Well … we would if his transvestite lover found him, and if the mayor had a myspace page. But I see your point: That’s why you’ll make a “full, if obvious, disclosure” that I’m your boss. And at the end of the story, long after everyone’s done reading, and after extensively quoting Village Voice Media lawyers, our hired experts, and, of course, myself, you’ll quote Daniel Farber, a free-speech expert at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall, who will call our argument “intriguing but not persuasive.”
HARPER (reading out loud): “After the Weekly described the argument and the case cited to him, Farber said, ‘It seems like a stretch to me.’” Ouch.
VOICE: We’ve had him dealt with. Any other questions, my boy? I have to tell Hoffman which underpants he’s wearing to the staff meeting tomorrow.
HARPER: Only one. Does this story count against my quota?
VOICE (fading into the ether): Of course … it was your idea!