The Business

by aditimittal

CAST

Jan: The editor of “The Herald”. Jaded and tired; 36

Julie: A journalist at “The Herald”: Passionate and anxious; 31

Secretary: A secretary, very nervous and servile; 21

The lights come up on an office. It is cluttered . A glass slab on the right side of the upstage center wall reads “The Herald” below which a tagline reads “Your voice. Your choice. Since 1934.” On either side of the wall are several certificates that “The Herald” has won for “journalistic excellence, “best coverage of the Watergate Scandal” and so on. A desk and a chair are placed directly below the glass slab and on it is a phone, some files piled high in one corner on another corner of the desk, a bottle of water.

Jan, the owner of the desk, sits in the chair. She is listening to voice messages on her phone.

Voice (which turns out to be Julie)

…..It’s urgent please give me a call as soon as you get this.

(Beep)

Voicemail

Next message sent yesterday at 11:35 p.m.

Voice

(Exasperated)

Jan it’s me again. I still have not heard from you regarding the e-mail mess up. It keeps telling me that my username is not valid. I even called the tech desk and they told me, that my username is not valid and I have to ask you why that is. I really need to get on there ASAP. All my work is on that account and I’ve got the Genevive article that is due tomorrow on there. Just give me a call pronto because we really need this taken care of.

(Beep)

(Jan presses a button on the phone)

Voicemail

Message Deleted.

Secretary

(Enters from DSR door)

Steve’s home room teacher called about the PTA meeting. Your 10 o’clock is here.

(Julie storms in)

Julie

I’ve left you 14 messages since yesterday. You refused to see me all day long, my e-mail is not working and I’m already late on the submission of the Genevive article. The tech desk told me that you asked them to deactivate my e-mail address. What do I do?

(Beat)

(Jan is silent)

I have a lot of important work on there and I really need it.

(Beat, jokingly)

Is this some weird way of firing me?

(Beat)

Are you firing me?

Jan

( Very quietly)

You need to have your desk cleaned by five.

Julie

You have got to be shitting me.

Jan

Jules, don’t make this harder….

Julie

You have got to be shitting me

Jan

If it makes you feel better, I had no say in this….

Julie

Oh! That does, thank you. What the hell are you talking about?

Jan

(Softly)

Headquarters said you had to go.

Julie

It’s the articles on the Eastlake case isn’t it?

Jan

(Tired, almost pleading)

I don’t know. And I can’t discuss what happens in the board room.

Julie

It is those articles! Admit it Jan, if you’re going to grovel to corporate headquarters then at least show some courage in your own office.

(Beat, Calmer)

I’ve been the core journalist at “The Herald” for six years and one fine morning, I’m fired . It was those articles, wasn’t it?

Jan

(Without looking her in the eye)

They did ask you to withdraw you statements.

Julie

And I didn’t do it, because I thought you were behind me. The Eastlake case has received such distorted coverage. Those six little boys were killed by the carelessness of a big corporation and we need someone to tell the truth and stop every news source from becoming a glorified press release of Eastlake and Company. I think we achieved that.

(Beat)

Not to mention that withdrawing my statements would be an appallingly stupid thing to do because it would taint the credibility of “The Herald”

Jan

(Wearily, as if memorized)

It was a hotbed of controversy Jan. We can’t square the blame on anyone. It could have been anyone, the parents of the kids, the FDA, the retailers who sold the candy bars, anyone…….And we have nothing to prove that the your coverage was as unbiased as you say it is….

Julie

Except for public opinion and sales of course. But what use would a thing like “public opinion’ mean to a newspaper that claims to have “Your voice. Your choice. Since 1934.” Does headquarters know how badly this is going to reflect on the paper?

Jan

I don’t know if you’ve noticed Jules, but headquarters does not really care for the reputation or level of ‘journalistic integrity’ of the newspaper. You’ve ruffled feathers Jules. They want you out. I don’t have a choice.

Julie

What a crock of shit Jan. You’re the editor and we’ve given them the sales; we hit an all time high on the day of the verdict. Everyone wanted to know what we had to say. We gave headquarters the money they wanted and we gave people the news they wanted. I don’t understand why this is a problem.

Jan

Well, they thought it was.

Julie

Jan, you’re the editor, you have the final word on this. We’ve been under them only for a year now, and you’re already taking your allegiance to them a little too seriously. What would a company that makes kids clothing know about running a newspaper?

Jan

….. Nothing. They know nothing. But we don’t have a choice, because they’re the ones who fill up the printing presses with ink every night, they’re the ones who give us the reams of paper to run through the rolls of ink…..They are the reason you and I take a salary home every fortnight.

Julie

(Dryly)

And they’re the ones who paid for your paid five day holiday last month……

Jan

My mother-in-law was ill, we thought we were going to lose her.

Julie

….And since headquarters has to maintain it’s little ‘friendship’ with Eastlake and Co we have to whisper the truth in a country that touts itself as a democracy.

Jan

If you piss off Eastlake, you piss of Headquarters. And you can piss of headquarters as much as you want, just not using “The Herald” as a platform.

(Beat, begging to Julie)

We’re not their primary endeavor Jules, they can cut us off anytime. I’m responsible for 155 other people’s jobs and well… I can’t choose you over everybody else.

Julie

I’m not fighting for my job Jan, it’s not about me. It’s about telling the truth and standing up for what’s right irrespective of what the people with the money want us do.

Jan we’re journalists, we have a responsibility. We’re Burke’s fourth Estate. We are the ones who keep the cogs of democracy turning. We defeat our own purpose if we only say what the bigger corporations tell us to say.

Jan

(Apologetically, reaching to pick up her waiting phone call)

Jules I’m sorry, I really don’t have the time for this right now…

Julie

Nobody has the time anymore. For anything. And yet, we’re the laziest fucking generation there ever was. During the Vietnam War, streets were lined with protestors and newspapers rife with scathing editorials. Now? Now we sit tight in our centrally heated houses in suburbia and tut-tut at anything that makes us uncomfortable. We, we that are supposed to be the voice of the people are available for a few dollars in mergers and acquisitions and headquarters decides everything.

(Beat)

Do you remember graduation, Jan? When we took our journalistic oaths… “For the people by the people, of the people”…..So it’s not about me Jan, it’s about you.

Jan

(Beat)

You seem very good at making fiery speeches Julie. Maybe you should become a politician.

(Beat)

Please do not remind me of what the truth is, or tell me how to do my job. I am well aware of both. This is a business and I’m running it as such. Now if you will excuse me.

Julie

Good luck with “The Herald” Jan or with being able to get sleep at night, which ever seems harder from now on.

(She turns around and exits)

Secretary

(Comes in sheepishly)

I am so sorry; she just stormed past in before I had a chance to say anything. Your 10 o’clock is still waiting.

Jan

(Still looking out to where Julie left)

That’s all right, send them in.

(Fade to black)

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