The novel approach to journalism


The news business attracts some interesting characters. Most of them are washed-up actors. Some are English majors who don’t want to teach English. And there are even a few that actually went to journalism school. In my case, I needed a job.


Many reporters eventually quit their respective full-time positions to go off and write the Great American Novel while living in the woods or something.


But can you imagine what would happen if news writers were encouraged to practice their fancy fiction using regular news events? Then you would see articles like this:


Mayor Steve Sanders’ eyes shifted from the left, then to the right. A voice entered his ears from far away, like those of the Tangiers airport long ago when the Frog Lady attacked his luggage. All around the room, the people waited - waited for him, the mayor, to say something, anything. His heart raced, like the time he watched that Ann-Margret movie — the one he never told his wife about.


“Shall we approve the minutes of the last meeting?” he asked. His mind went back to how it had all been last week: how they agreed to give the Wendy’s on Oceanside a new parking lot; how they welcomed Dairy Queen to the area. It all seemed like such a blur.


All around the mahogany table went the councilmembers’ “yays.” Billings, the investment man, whose family made its money bootlegging with Joseph P. Kennedy; Hopkins, the tailor, who got rich by converting an old barn into a giant shopping mall for the insane; Squire, the city manager, a nice guy from Canada who had a dark secret; and Heathrow, the council’s only woman and a very close friend of Tipper Gore.


The crowd came to a hush as the elderly woman sauntered up to the podium. It was Millicent Harper, the town librarian, but everyone knew her by her middle name — “trouble.”


“I want to know what’s going to be done about that big pile of trash over on Fifth Street?” she asked. “People keep adding to it and it’s getting to be a real eyesore.”


Sanders knew what he had to do now. It was time for the old song and dance, the old top hat and tails.


“We’ll look into it,” he smugly said. If only the meeting wasn’t being videotaped for Cable Channel 3, he could tell the old bat what he really thought.


Soon it would all be over. He could go home and study the economic development proposal submitted by Simmons, the port director. But would it work? Could he get the local fishermen to go along with it? And what about the tugboat problem?


Hopefully his wife would be asleep so he wouldn’t have to talk to her. Then he could drink some warm milk and drift off to another world, his perfect world.


Ann-Margret was waiting.