A Small Story for Page 3
Genre Political Intrigue
Tags Politics, intrigue, corruption, government scandal, newspapers, reporting, reporters
Editor Nancy Bell
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
Harry Fletcher can’t for the life of him figure out what exactly the ‘nugget’ of information his colleague, Eddie Concannon, uncovered prior to his death is. Picking his way along the threads of information, Harry soon finds himself at odds with government officials and his own newspaper seems to be involved in the collusion. Join Harry as he deciphers the clues and enjoy a journey into the world of investigative reporting set against a colorful back drop of characters and locations.
"Oddly enough, ladies and gentlemen of the TV audience," Harry announced in his persona as Larry Largelungs of Action Central News, "the condemned man was smiling and singing as he approached the gallows."
The mood changed when he arrived at Wear's office to find the executive editor and the managing editor waiting and somberly reading printouts of the story.
"This thing has to be settled today," Wear said. "It's gone on long enough, it's tied us in knots, and we need to find a solution."
"I thought we had one," Harry said. "The story shows he has been sailing under false colors as a corruption fighter by trying to protect one of the targets of the investigation with whom he had a connection, perhaps lucrative, not previously disclosed."
"We're not the ones who have to be convinced," Mike reminded him.
When they walked into Marcotte's office, it was obvious he was not prepared to be persuaded. The publisher remained behind his huge mahogany desk and with a brusque gesture he seated the others at the small conference table.
"I've read the story you people seem to think should run on Page One as soon as possible," he said, "I think it’s still libelous horseshit, and I intend to spike it, this time for good. You still have no hard evidence that Tyler Bannister resisted Phase Two because of some personal concern. But Tyler denies it flat-out and there's no quote from him to corroborate it."
Harry was trying to contain his fury. "The only quote from him in reply was “go fuck yourself.” Do you want to use that?"
"Don't be flippant, Fletcher, this is a serious question."
"We all understand that, Dave," Wear said, stepping in quickly. "If you want a clearer denial in more decorous terms, we can do that."
"A denial isn't going to change the fact that we are doing serious damage to Tyler Bannister's reputation and potentially his political career," Marcotte said, his voice rising. "I don't intend to be a party to that."
"That was never our intention," Wear said. "We've gone where the story has taken us. The truth is that this episode raises serious questions about Bannister's candidacy."
"It shows him interceding in behalf of a friend and former business associate in an official investigation," Harry said with some heat. "That's a part of the truth about him that we know but our readers do not."
"Don't give me that truth and readers crap, Fletcher," the publisher said. "I remember you calling him a trimmer way back there. You had it in for him from the start. So did Concannon."
"This story quotes Tom Lawton saying Bannister called him with a warning about being on Carvaggio's list of targets and it quotes Rudy Myers as confirming that Bannister ordered Lawton's name stricken from that list once he agreed to retire from the bench."
"I know what the story says but, as I told you earlier, Fletcher," Marcotte said, "it is the publisher, not the reporter, who decides what appears in the News and I have made the decision on this one." After an interminable twenty seconds of silence, he continued, "I think we're through here, gentlemen. Thanks for coming in." When the elevator dropped them at the third floor, Wear beckoned them into his office and closed the door on Meg. "I don't know what we do now," he said.
"What you and Mike do," Harry said, "is keep faith with the good people here who depend on you to let them put out a good newspaper and hope for change. What I do, is clean a few things out of my desk and walk out of the building. I don't have any choice now."
"What are you going to do about the story," Mike asked.
"I haven't thought it through, Mike, but I'm not going to give it to the Trib or some television station. I don't know if the story is mine to use elsewhere or what. It would take a lot of time and effort for anyone else to duplicate it."
Wear had a different concern. "What are you going to say when the word gets out that you've left the building?" he asked.
"I could just tell the truth—that I have left the News after almost thirty years because of a decision by the publisher to spike a story I wrote. Period." He laughed. "I'll leave it to Amy Whiting to fill in the blanks."
At Wear's office door, he turned to his two old friends. "Look, this isn't the end of the world. Let's all have dinner later in the week, some place public for all to see. Meanwhile, I'll keep you posted."