Inside the Glamorous World of Journalism


Another Friday morning, another tedious story meeting at the newspaper. I had bigger fish to fry. That’s why I smelled like fish when I took the seat closest to the door.

”Mr. Wire, so nice of you to grace us with your presence this morning. I trust our story meeting won’t eat into your online poker schedule too much.”

Could J. Emerson Bilkins be a bigger pompous ass? So I was a few minutes late to the meeting. Big deal. I’ve never seen a meeting yet that couldn’t bumble along without me, because the only thing that ever gets decided in a meeting is when the next meeting will be.

“Once again, people,” said Mr. Bilkins, “Impress me. I would like to be intrigued and bedazzled by an absolute avalanche of captivating stories for this week’s issue.”

I was considering pitching a story about the reporter who throttled his managing editor who talked like he was reading from a wine label, when Stevie the Intern shot his hand up like his armpit hair was on fire.

“I got one!” hollered Stevie. Bilkins, standing at the head of the table, slouched as if his bones had been removed, let his cataract-glazed eyes roll back in his bald head, and heaved a sigh that sounded like the Hindenburg deflating. “Are there any paid staff writers who have suggestions for stories that will cause readers to snatch our newspaper off the stands in such numbers that will cause Mr. Caudle in Circulation to become sexually aroused?”


Is being a journalist all it’s cracked up to be? Ha, I said crack.

Cindee Troupé stopped tapping her pen and held it vertically at arm’s length as thought it were lighting the way to truth and an honest man. “The Mud Daubers are staging another nude bike ride along Higgins.”

Bilkins shrugged. “So what? They just did that last fall. What’s the angle?”

“This time,” said Cindee, flipping open her calfskin notebook and straightening her oversized Tom Ford cat-eye glasses that contained plain glass, “they’re pulling a trailer made of reclaimed parts from a barn and tractor used on an organic farm. Riding in the trailer will be a transexual midwife helping a Chinese dissident artist give birth as she paints a depiction of the class struggle in her homeland. Protesters are being bussed in from the Bitterroot, and a faction of religious fundamentalists called Fully Clothed All the Time is reportedly planning to march at the same time from the opposite direction.”

Bilkins nodded. “Okay, that’s more like it. Any reaction from the city government?”

“No, but there is a beer festival associated with it.”

“All right,” said Bilkins, throwing a dismissive wave in Troupé’s general direction. “Go with it. Next?”

“They’re giving the award for outstanding contribution to the community tonight,” said Tom Rance, the business reporter.

“Who’s giving the award?” asked Bilkins. “Wait, let me guess. The Chamber of Commerce.”

“Right,” said Rance. “But…”

“And who is receiving this award? Wait, let me guess. A real estate agent.”

“Well, yes, but…”

Bilkins leaned forward. “Tom, this is not news. Our business section is clogged with realtors joining boards, realtors getting awards, realtors reaching sales goals, realtors getting…”

“Actually, it’s pronounce real-TOR, sir.”

“Is that right? Well, maybe you can confirm that with your doc-TOR when you go in to have your head removed from your ass. Anyone else?”

Silence. Bilkins looked around the room, making eye contact with each reporter. He deliberately ignored Stevie the Intern, who held his arm rigidly up, his face the color of a ripe tomato.

With another monster sigh, Bilkins closed his eyes and sat back in his chair. “Okay, Stevie. What’ve you got.”

”Nicknames,” said Stevie the Intern, standing up so fast his chair fell over. “We should allow nicknames.”

Bilkins crossed his legs and eyed the intern, idly plucking at his lower lip. “What do you mean, do a story on nicknames? The origins of people’s nicknames?”

“No,” said Stevie, holding his palms in front of him as if he were playing an imaginary concertina. “I mean everyone here should get a nickname.”

“Some of us already have nicknames,” said Wanda “Demo Derby” Hutchison. “I don’t want another one.”

“Then maybe you oughta learn how to drive,” sniggered Orlando “Taint” Toussaint, the staff’s health and medicine reporter.

Demo Derby shot him a dirty look and raised her middle finger. “Drive this.”

“Well, we’re not getting much in the way of story ideas,” said Bilkins with a shrug. “Maybe this will help clear the air. Kick something loose.”

Three people started coughing into their fists, and the words “Emerson Big Ones” emerged from the cacophony.

“What the…? Who said that?” said Bilkins, standing up. “I’ll not be ridiculed.”

But it was too late. The dozen other people at the table began to chuckle, and started poking each other in the ribs, suggesting several nicknames for their co-workers. At that moment Carl, the web press operator, poked his head into the room. “Mr. Bilkins, sir? We’re getting down to the end on two rolls of newsprint, can we order two extra rolls this week?”

Bilkins checked some numbers on his iPad while the meeting continued to degenerate into a grade-school recess. “Yes,” he waved at Carl. “Two rolls. But no more.”

“Thank you,” said Carl. “By the way,” he said, looking around the table at the laughing reporters. They all fell silent. “From now on I insist on being addressed as ‘Rooster.’” He disappeared from the doorway, and a new round of laughter erupted. “Rooster! Haw! Buck buck buck!”

Carl’s head reappeared at the doorway. “Laugh now,” he said, no emotion showing on his face. “But soon enough your laughter will become screams of terror.” Then he was gone.

A pall settled over the room, and reporters began gathering their things, closing their notebooks, draining their coffee cups.

“Okay, people,” said Bilkins, clapping his hands once. “Let’s sell some papers.”

Pulling my fedora down low over my eyes, I exited the room. “Whatever you say, Big Ones.”

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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