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The Pioneer Press newsroom in ‘It’s a Wonderful Job’

For reasons known only to themselves, Pioneer Press newsroom staffers have decided to share video of their Christmas Party — well, the skit part anyway.

“It’s a Wonderful Job” was penned by editorial writer and “Almanac” monologuist Jim Ragsdale and features Fred Melo (narrator); Ragsdale, Emily Gurnon and Chris Snowbeck sharing James Stewart duties; and Bob Shaw as a particularly terrifying Clarence.

Mr. Potter remains off-screen; he could be MediaNews Group CEO Dean Singleton, or public-radio (note pointed “porn” reference in script, below), or maybe anyone who doesn’t help pay for the news, including, ahem, bloviators.

Just like its predecessor, “Wonderful Job” is sappy, but it’s the Christmas season, so lighten up and recognize these folks still care about what they do, still bleed printer’s ink, and still want to make St. Potterville a better place. After a tough year of pay cuts and layoffs, a generous laugh and a back pat is very much in order.

“It’s a Wonderful Job” from Ben Garvin on Vimeo.

CAST:

Narrator — Fred Melo
Reporter 1 — Jim Ragsdale
Reporter 2 — Emily Gurnon
Reporter 3 — Christopher Snowbeck
Angel — Bob Shaw

FRED calls people to order, standing to side of main stage area. Three REPORTERS wearing trenchcoats and press passes, carrying notepads, cell phones and  blackberrys, stand in center.

FRED: Welcome to tonight’s performance. In honor of the season, and recognizing the state of our business, we offer you a new take on an old story. We call our piece: “IT’S A WONDERFUL JOB.” We begin with three honest, hard-working news reporters who are … wringing their hands in dismay.

REPORTERS wringing hands in dismay, perhaps ripping sheets from notebooks, moaning as Fred continues.

FRED: In the last holiday season in the first decade of the 21st century, journalists were under siege. They began to question their very existence. The world, it seemed, did not have a place for them any more.

RAGS: I’m sick of the endless cutbacks. Another pay cut is being proposed. We’re not going to even have a theatre critic. And I hear the newspaper may eliminate all adverbs.

OTHER REPORTERS: No!!!

EMILY: Our building is becoming a used office furniture mart. Have you been to the 7th floor? It’s a ghost town. There’s graffiti on the walls and drug dealers in the men’s room.

OTHERS: Horrors! No!!!

CHRIS: Nobody cares about us. Nobody wants to pay for our content. Our loyal readers are so old they call us the “Dispatch.” The new ones all want it for free. I live-tweeted a breaking story and the only followers were chickadees.

RAGS: We have to do something dramatic.

EMILY: You mean, like mass suicide?

RAGS. I’m thinking of something worse. Let’s all go into … (pause) … corporate communications.

ALL: NOOOOO!!!!!

They huddle into a group, wailing and gnashing teeth.

FRED.
They began wailing and gnashing their teeth. Considering the MediaNews dental plan, this could get expensive. But this is how it was at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Journalists everywhere questioned whether they had made any difference … and whether they should continue.

EMILY: Did you hear the latest revenue-enhancing idea? The Pioneer Press put the newspaper’s three Pulitizer Prize medals up for sale on eBay.

CHRIS. My School Bell award is next! All continue  swooning and caterwauling, whatever that is…

FRED:
But help was at hand. One night, as they swooned and catterwalled, The Angel of Journalism suddenly appeared to them.

Nothing happens.

FRED CONTINUING
I said, the Angel of Journalism suddenly appeared to them.

BOB (in stupid sheet with wings), comes on; he has not been seen before. REPORTERS amazed at him, but remain wailing and gnashing.

FRED (CONTINUING)
He looked like a cross between Walter Cronkite and Christianne Amanpour. He had the sparkle of Geraldo, the je ne se quois of Anderson Cooper and the tight prose style of Hemingway. He carried the love of journalism and a very large expense account.

CHRIS: I wish I’d listened to my mom and become a proctologist!

BOB: You mustn’t say that! You don’t realize what St. Paul would be like without you!

RAGS. Who are you?

BOB: I’m the Angel of Journalism. I go around the country saving journalists from falling into perdition — and flackery.

EMILY: You must be very busy.

CHRIS. How’d you miss Nicole Garrison-Sprenger?

BOB: I was in Detroit that week working with the Free Press.

REPORTERS ALL TOGETHER: St. Paul would be better off if we’d never written a single news story!

BOB: Hmmm. That might work. (Ruminates a second, turns to Fred.) Will you do the honors?

Fred collects phones, press passes, Blackberry, notepads and gives them to the Angel.

BOB (CONTINUING)
All right. Your wish is granted. You never wrote a story. You didn’t exist.

They go rummaging through pockets and purses.

RAGS. Where’s my notepad?

EMILY. I got no service on my cell?

CHRIS. No blackberry! I can’t breathe.

BOB: No notebooks. No pens and pencils. You have no press passes. No connection to the rest of the world. No email — you never existed.

EMILY. What will happen to the bloggers and radio-gabbers without content?

BOB:  All gone. Even the bloviators cannot manufacture opinions without the raw material of actual facts.

As Fred speaks, REPORTERS gather around ANGEL. They walk in place as if he is showing them the sights.

FRED: So the Angel of Journalism gathered these nonexistent journalists together and took them on a tour. He showed them what their community would be like without reporters, editors, photographers, circulation and advertising workers.

RAGS What does that billboard say? Re-elect Jesse?

BOB: Jesse Ventura became president of the United States … because you weren’t there when he was governor. So nobody was there to follow him around and quote him fully and accurately … and the rest of the country didn’t know what he was really like.

RAGS What about my 14-part series showing all his flaws? It lost the Pulitzer Prize.

BOB. It never ran because you weren’t around to write it.

REPORTERS: They resume “walk” with Angel. They walk to the ‘northern’ edge of our stage and look out.

FRED: The Angel took them to the northern edge of their city. What once had been a comfortable surburb was now a smoking hole in the ground.

EMILY: What happened to 3M and Maplewood Mall and Highway 36?

BOB: Look around you. The place that used to be known as Maplewood is now one gigantic crater. Because there was no reporter to cover the City Hall’s endless feuds, Diana Longrie’s faction acquired WMDs and used them against the incumbents.

EMILY: And not a single on-call firefighter to put it out!

FRED: Bigger surprises awaited them, such as when they came to the city limits — what used to be the dividing line between St. Paul and Minneapolis.

RAGS: Wait a minute! Why are the two towns renamed “Hecker-apolis” and “St. Petters”?

BOB: Because good journalists weren’t around to explain what Tom Petters and Denny Hecker were doing, the two city governments became centers of corporate fraud. Ponzi schemes replaced honest businesses
as the main form of economic development.

FRED: And then they came to the ultimate insult…

CHRIS: Why is University Avenue a dirt road, filled with bordellos, gambling halls and muffler shops?

BOB: There were no journalists to keep an eye on $1 billion in funding for the Central Corridor. Minnesota Public Radio grabbed the money and used it to fund their non-profit, membership-based, radio porn site.
And University Avenue fell into rack and ruin.

REPORTERS: Rack and ruin!!!! No!!!!

RAGS: Not the Central Corridor! It will provide a fast, safe, new transportation choice in one of our region’s fastest-growing corridors!

EMILY: It’s going to carry 42,000 projected riders by 2030 with a travel time of 35 minutes!

CHRIS: It will ease congestion and spur transit-friendly development!

BOB: You’ve all been given a great gift. To see what your community would be like without journalism. You see — you really had a wonderful job.

RAGS: Take us back, Angel.

EMILY: Give us our beats back!

CHRIS: We want to report again!

As FRED speaks, ANGEL restores press passes, cell phones, notebooks, etc. to reporters.

FRED: So The Angel of Journalism returned them to their community — and their beats.

RAGS: Petters is in jail, Hecker is facing indictment and Jesse Ventura has a stupid cable show. I feel better already!

EMILY: Maplewood is going to have a big fight at Council Monday night — aint it wonderful?

CHRIS: The Central Corridor is bogged down in endless power plays — I’m on it!

FRED: Thanks to the Angel of journalism, St. Paul and the East Metro was again a place that needed watching. It was a place that needed journalism. It was a place that needed the the beating heart of a newspaper every morning.

It needed …

All five cast members, as Fred holds up Friday’s edition:

… the St. Paul Pioneer Press!

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