by Rachel Cisto
The exploits of a fictional newsroom based on the exploits of a real newsroom.
I sat across from David in the restaurant. I was terrified, so I hadn’t said much.
He smiled at me. “Did you hear about the charity baseball game they’re doing next weekend?”
“Ooh, no, I didn’t! I love baseball games!” I clapped excitedly.
He laughed. “I wouldn’t have pegged you as a baseball fan. But yeah, the station partners with the local baseball team and they have a game where ten percent of the ticket sales go to a charity.”
“That is SO AWESOME!” I cried, unable to hide my excitement. “Besides,” I said with a smile, “it’s more the ‘meeting the public’ than the ‘baseball’ part.”
“Duh.” I laughed. “Why else would I be a reporter?”
He chuckled. “Good point. The game’s always fun. I went last year. We go all out. There’s a dunk tank and everything.”
“Will you be in the dunk tank?”
He sighed. “I got talked into it. And by ‘talked into it’ I mean Melissa was supposed to be in the tank and she told me that I was going in instead.”
I grinned. “I’m going. And you’re going to SWIM.”
“I hate you,” David said, glaring at me.
I knew that when Imogen said she was going to dunk me she was dead serious. I just wished she wasn’t. But sure enough, she came sauntering up to the dunk tank that morning.
“Hey,” she said playfully, leaning on the tank. Her blue eyes sparkled playfully.
“Hi.” I responded. “You’re not wearing your contacts?”
She pushed her glasses up on her nose. “Nah. My eyes didn’t want to cooperate this morning. Having fun in there?”
“Not too bad. Haven’t gone in yet.”
That’s when I noticed she had a softball.
She tossed the softball up in the air and caught it again. “What?”
“No.” I repeated. I really didn’t want to go in the water.
“No what,” she insisted. “If you don’t tell me, I might do it anyway.”
“Isn’t that the whole point of a dunk tank?” She laughed.
“I don’t want to go swimming.”
She walked away from the tank, playfully swishing her hips. “I don’t know, I think a good soaking would do you good right about now.”
She turned to face me. “Ready...set...SWIM!” She whipped the softball toward the target. I had thought she missed at first.
But then I heard the clank, and before I knew it, I was in the water.
Imogen was jumping up and down and giggling gleefully. I could see her through the water.
She raced toward me as I surfaced. “That was totally worth a dollar.”
I glared at her. “Thanks.”
Ethan wandered over to us. “Looks like fun. Who sent you in?”
I glared at her. “She did.”
“Good for you,” Ethan exclaimed, patting her on the back.
“Why don’t you get in the tank?” Cheryl called, walking up to us.
Ethan turned to face his fellow anchor. “I would, but I can’t.”
“Why not?” Imogen asked.
“Because I’m allergic to water.” Ethan replied, deadpan.
“Bullshit,” Cheryl said, laughing.
“Wait, so you’re allergic to yourself?” I asked.
He thought about this for a second, and then grinned. “Yes.”
I splashed him.
“IT BURNS!” he cried, jumping backward.
“Be careful doing that,” Cheryl said to me. “He’s extra dramatic and you don’t want crazy fans yelling at you.”
Imogen turned to Ethan. “You have a fan club?”
“Of course I do.” Ethan said, proudly. “And you will too once you’re on air all the time like we are.”
“Don’t get him started, sweetheart,” Cheryl said with a smile.
Imogen laughed. “But that sounds like fun!”
I wrung the water out of my t-shirt. “What, letting Ethan rant at you or having a fan club? Because neither of those sounds like my idea of a good time.”
“I am not ranting. I am very passionately telling a story,” Ethan said, walking back to the tank.
Imogen burst out laughing. “I’m stealing that. That’s the best phrase ever.” She looked at me. “You can never again say I rant. I’m a passionate storyteller.”
I shook my head and turned to Ethan. “Gee, thanks. That’s what I need.”
“Your sarcasm isn’t appreciated, young man.” Ethan clicked his tongue at me.
I sighed heavily because I knew exactly what was coming. Why on earth, I thought, did I agree to climb into a dunk tank again?
“That’s not how you treat on-air talent. You need to learn some manners.” Ethan grinned playfully. He turned around and pressed the target and sent me back into the water.
I had to admit, seeing David get sent into the water more than once was hilarious to me. And when Ethan called him ‘disrespectful to talent’ and punched the target, I laughed so hard that I cried.
Although I did feel a little bad for him when he surfaced looking like a drowned rat.
He looked at me. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
I chuckled. “Little bit.”
He glared at me. I laughed again. “You want me to take over?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You want to do this?”
I shrugged. “Meh. But you look miserable so I’ll take over for you.”
He smiled. “You have to go check with Will but I personally would love that.”
I smiled back. “Cool. Where is he?”
“Gee, thanks.” I turned and walked toward the seats, hoping I would just stumble upon Will and avoid going hunting for him.
I was lucky. He was headed up the stairs.
He turned. “Oh, hey, Imogen. What’s up?”
“David’s getting picked on by the anchors.”
“Are we in kindergarten, tattle tale?” He was trying not to look amused.
“I was going to ask you if I could get in the tank for him.”
Will looked surprised. “You?”
He shrugged. “Sure. You know they’re going to pick on you too though.”
“Nah.” I folded my arms. “We’re all on-air talent. They can’t. We’re like a fraternity. A co-ed fraternity.”
Will looked at me for a few minutes before shaking his head. “There are so many things wrong with what you just said to me.”
I shrugged again.
He shook his head. “And somehow I’m not surprised. Get outta here.”
I smiled and bounded back toward the tank.
“You’re free!” I cried when I made it back.
David laughed. “You’re going to get in the dunk tank? Seriously?”
I folded my arms. “Why is that so shocking to everyone?”
He laughed. “We don’t know you very well. So everything you do is shocking.”
“Fair enough.” I hadn’t been at 13 for very long, I remembered. “Get out of the way. My turn.”
David climbed out of the tank. “Gladly.” He grabbed a towel and began to dry his hair.
I clambered up on to the platform. Suddenly volunteering to go in the tank seemed like my worst idea ever.
David grinned. “Hey, Immi!”
I turned. He had never called me Immi before. And that’s when it hit me. He had a softball.
He closed one eye and stared at the little red bull’s-eye next to me. “Don’t blink.”
I heard the ball hit the target. The sound was deafening. And the split second before I hit the water, I felt the platform give underneath me. It was the most terrifying second of my life. Before I had the chance to react, I was in the water.
I immediately splashed my way to the surface. “DEAR GOD.”
David ran up to me. “You alright?”
“That was something else. Wait a minute.” Something dawned on me. “Where are my glasses?”
“You didn’t take them off?” he asked.
“I didn’t get a chance. Someone failed to warn me before they hurled a softball in my direction!” I glared at him. I wasn’t really mad, of course, but it was kind of his fault.
“I’m sorry, Immi,” he said remorsefully. “I thought you’d taken them off like I did. Check the bottom of the tank.”
I glared at him. “I would, but I kind of can’t see.”
“How blind are you?” he asked in disbelief.
I studied him. I was floating in the water and he was leaning on the edge of the tank. “Well, I can barely see you, and you’re about 4 feet away from me.”
“That works.” He got down on his knees and peered into the Plexiglas window at the bottom of the tank.
“I see them!” he called. “Down in the corner.”
I sighed. “Alright, cool I guess.” I took a deep breath and dove under the water, fumbling around the base of the tank until I felt the plastic frames in my hands.
I surfaced and put my glasses back on.
“Can you see me now?” David asked, leaning in.
“Well, you’re covered in water droplets, but you’re there.” I laughed.
He leaned closer. “Am I disrupting your personal bubble?”
I grinned mischievously. “Joke’s on you. I don’t have a personal bubble.”
David straightened up. “That’s a little worrying.”
“It probably should be,” I responded, pushing the platform back into place.
I watched Imogen while she was in the tank. She was clearly cut out for her job. As she sat on the platform, she called out to the fans walking by.
“Hey! One dollar and you get a chance to send a TV reporter swimming! Who’s in?”
I laughed. She was far more personable than I was.
After a half an hour, Javier walked up to the tank. “Hey, Imogen, I’m here to relieve you of duty.”
She actually looked slightly disappointed as she climbed out of the tank.
She spotted me immediately and raced up to me. “Why did you let me in there for you? That was so much fun! Why would you give that up?”
“I’m really not the most social person ever. You were way better at it than I was.”
She grinned. “You just have to talk to people.”
“There are two problems with that sentence. Talking and people.”
She shrugged. “To each his own, I guess.” She turned to the field. “The best part is that the game hasn’t even started yet. Do we get seats?”
“Of course we do,” I said, amused by her excitement. “This way.”
We walked into a box suite.
“Oh, what were YOU two doing?” Ethan said, grinning at the two of them.
I cringed, but Imogen was completely oblivious. “I took his place in the dunk tank! It was awesome! And lots of people bought a chance to dunk the reporter! Which means a lot of money for charity!”
She was right. I had forgotten about that. Ten percent of the ticket sales and all of the proceeds from the dunk tank went to charity. “You’re making me feel worse about not getting anyone to play, you know.”
She pouted at me. “I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention.”
“It’s fine,” I responded. I wasn’t really that upset, and her puppy dog eyes were very persuasive. “Let’s go watch the game.”
Her expression didn’t change. “Fine.”
I loved my colleagues. I really did. But rumors spread quickly in a newsroom and reporters were very persistent.
“Hey,” Alex said, waltzing up and leaning on my desk.
I looked up. “Howdy.”
“So. I heard you and David went to dinner the other night.”
“And you were hanging out at the baseball game.”
“We were.” I figured that if I ignored her and just kept typing, she’d eventually get bored.
I ignored her.
“SO,” she repeated, more forceful this time.
I finally gave in. “You say ‘so’ a lot.”
She stared intently at me.
“WHAT?” I exclaimed, unable to hide my frustration any more.
“What are you two?” Alex seemed delighted to ask me.
“You’re nosy,” I answered.
“I’m not nosy, just curious.” She smiled sweetly. “There’s a difference.”
“You’re nosy,” I repeated. “Not curious.”
“I’m not nosy!”
Alex groaned. “Oh my god, it’s my job, shut up!” She recovered quickly though. “Either way, talk to me about where you are.”
“We’re nowhere,” I responded curtly. “Friends.” I stopped. “Wait, why does everyone think we’re together?”
I rolled my eyes. That told me a whole lot.
“You like him a lot.”
It was my turn to groan. “Is it that obvious?”
Alex laughed. “Yeah, to apparently everyone but him.”
“He doesn’t know?” There might be hope for me yet!
“No idea, otherwise he’d have made a move already!”
I smiled. Perhaps this could work out.
I saw Alex teasing Immi and I knew what it was about. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time. Dorothy had to leave early, so she was handing her show over to me.
I raced into the control room with my stack of scripts.
“Hey sweetie,” she said as I sat down.
I smiled. “Hey Dot.”
“We talked about that.”
“I know.” She hated being called “Dot”. “It’s a term of endearment.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Makes me sound like I’m a hundred years old.”
I laughed. “Don’t take it personally. Hey, have you seen Carmen today?”
Dorothy nodded. “She’s at the basketball ceremony thing.”
I looked up at the monitors. One of the local high schools was retiring a number worn by a player who had died in a car crash. I saw Carmen on the little screen.
“I thought that was a package feed! Is she live?”
I groaned. “She’s so needy when she’s live!”
As if on cue, Carmen’s image started moving. She was waving wildly into the camera. Dorothy put her headset back on and pressed a button. “Hi Carmen. I’m on my way out, but Francesca’s here to guide you.”
She handed me the headset. “Hi Carmen,” I said. “Having fun?”
Carmen shook her head. “Not really! What time is it? When’s my live hit? Have I missed it?”
“It’s fine, Carmen, it’s only 6:10. You’ve got time.”
“Okay.” She was always nervous before going live.
Dorothy ruffled my hair. “Have fun, kid.”
I really loved when new people came in to the newsroom. Reporters, interns, even people I never deal with usually. New people are fun.
Except when the new people are convinced I’m trying to torture them. While I do like to push people’s buttons, I don’t think I’m a bad guy. Hey, I’ve been doing news my whole life.
I just like to make sure everyone is having as much fun as I am.
So when I saw Francesca in the control room with a bunch of interns one day, I had to go in and say hello. It was only polite.
“Hi Frannie,” I said, walking through the control room on my way to the studio. “Looks like a party in here!”
She grinned. “It is. Are you here to join?”
“Nope, just to annoy.” I walked behind her and stopped to look at the director. “Hey Summer.”
“Hi. What are you doing?” I had picked up her stack of scripts, and she was clearly not amused.
“Just looking. Yours are green.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Is that a problem?”
I wanted to see what I could get away with. “I like green better than yellow. Here.” I dropped the yellow scripts on the table and started to walk away with the green stack.
She sighed heavily. “I would yell at you but there’s really no point.”
“Ha.” I turned back to make a face at her. However, I wasn’t watching where I was going, and I walked into the glass door separating the control room from the audio room.
Everyone burst out laughing, even me. “Well, whaddaya know, there’s a door here.”
I stepped back and glanced at the slender blonde intern who looked at me with wide eyes. “I thought you were going to open it!” she exclaimed. “I’m so sorry!”
Fran turned to her. “Don’t worry, Valerie. I think the door thought so too.”
In that moment, I had to admit, I did feel a little bad for the intern. She looked like a deer in the headlights. I patted her head. “Don’t feel bad, dear; I make a fool of myself daily. I’m pretty sure that’s why they keep me around.”
And with that, I slid the door open and marched into the audio room. "Hello David!"
The engineer didn't look up. "Keep walking."
“Well, someone’s in a good mood,” I muttered. “Jeez, you’d think someone who had such a lovely girlfriend would be happier.”
“Keep…” David looked up. “She is NOT my girlfriend!”
“Yet,” I responded.
Before he could answer, I walked out. He slammed the door behind me and I kept going, rather pleased with myself.
I sat down at the anchor desk, unable to hide my amusement.
Cheryl picked up on it immediately. “Have you been messing with the crew again?”
“Of course not,” I replied. I handed her the blue scripts.
“You stole Summer’s scripts?” Cheryl was clearly good at her job.
“I gave her the yellow ones.”
“I think telling Imogen that you specialize in mayhem and shenanigans was an accurate statement.”
I grinned again. “Never said it wasn’t.”
I smiled. I loved Katrina. She was the sweetest woman, and she even tolerated my incessant questions about the weather.
“Hi Katrina! How’s tomorrow looking?”
She sighed. “Remember what I was telling you about pressure systems?”
“Remember the one we were looking at on the satellite radar that was up in Washington State?”
I nodded again.
“Remember how I said it wasn’t going to be anything? It’s something.”
“A little something or a lot of something?” I was getting excited. I loved snow. Although, that was probably because a few inches shut down the whole city of Baltimore.
Katrina sighed heavily. “A lot of something, hon.”
I blinked. “How much is a lot?”
“Well, we usually get about six feet of snow every year.”
I thought about this. I’m five-foot-five. That seemed like…not much.
Katrina saw my confusion. “Really, hon, we only get about six feet a year. We’re gonna get at least two out of this storm.”
I started to bounce. I really couldn’t help it. “Two feet? All at once? We get two feet TOTAL in Baltimore!”
“Good thing someone’s excited for all of this,” Riley responded, looking at me.
He shook his head. “You said it yourself. We’re about to get Baltimore’s yearly total of snow in one night. I never dealt with snowstorms of that magnitude until I got here.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Wait, you moved here? Where did you come from?”
He laughed. “Baltimore. Don’t you listen to me?”
I stopped. “Have we had this conversation before?”
“Probably. You know, for a reporter, you’re not the most observant.”
He was right; I had been forgetting things a lot lately. I made a mental note to look into that later.
I turned back to Katrina. “So...two feet of snow?”
“At least,” she reminded me.
“When is it going to hit?” Riley asked.
He made a face. “Lovely. Right when I’d be leaving.”
I could barely contain my excitement. “So, newsroom sleepover?”
Apparently, I was the only one who thought that was a good idea.
When Will leaned across the table at the news meeting, I knew. “Alex dear, want to go play in the snow?”
I grinned. “Only if I actually get to play.”
“Great. You’re going with Jeanne.”
I stopped. “Who?”
“She’s usually dayside, but Sofia took the night off, so Jeanne’s filling in for her.”
“Cool. What does she look like?”
“Trust me,” Will said with a chuckle, “you won’t be able to miss her.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Before Will could answer, a loud female voice screeched from the front of the newsroom. “HEY! WHERE’S MY REPORTER? LET’S GO MAKE HEADLINES!”
Everyone stopped and stared. A woman with bright green hair came pelting into the newsroom. She stopped in front of me. “You look like a reporter. You must be Alex.”
I was a bit startled by this woman, and it looked like everyone else was too. “I am Alex,” I said, extending my hand.
“Great!” She grabbed my hand and shook it with so much enthusiasm, I thought she was going to pull my shoulder out of its socket. “I’m Jeanne!” She abruptly let go.
“I figured,” I muttered, rubbing my shoulder.
She grinned, completely oblivious. “This is gonna be fun. We can have a snowball fight and build a snowman and a snow fort…and we can do the news in between, I guess.” She slapped me on the back. “Wait here, I’ll go get the equipment.”
She bounded off in the same direction she’d come in. I glared at Will. “Ouch.”
He laughed. “Isn’t she something?”
“She’s something, alright.”
“COME ON!” she called through the open garage door.
I sighed. “What, I don’t know.” Against my better judgement, I followed Jeanne out the door.