Explanation of the "catbird seat." First known use in literature was in a 1942 short story by James Thurber. The term was later popularized by baseball commentator Red Barber.

Explanation of the "catbird seat." First known use in literature was in a 1942 short story by James Thurber. The term was later popularized by baseball commentator Red Barber.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of Monday odes that chronicle the legacy newsroom. Each is written from different first-person perspective. Together they create the mumbled narrative of a special and sadly contracting culture. The author, Don Nelson, has been a newsman for almost 50 years.

To see previous poems:

Ode #1, City Editor, Friday Night 

Ode #2: Reporter, On Deadline

Ode #3: Copy Editor, Standing Guard

Ode #4: Photographer, Under The Gun

Ode #5: Publisher, In a Squeeze

 

CEO, IN THE CATBIRD SEAT 

You wouldn’t believe the bonus

I’m getting this year.

 

We lost a boatload of money

In every market, but less

Than we would have,

Because I eliminated jobs

And consolidated operations

And slashed benefits

And gutted pension funds

And pimped for Wall Street

Because it is my job

To maximize shareholder value.

 

Our debt load would bankrupt

Many third-world countries.

It doesn’t matter.

 

Our stock tanks, the board loves me.

Our circulation drops, the board adores me.

Our advertising revenues plummet, half the board

Wants to sleep with me

Because I will do whatever it takes

To protect their dividends.

 

Nobody blinks

When I add a couple of vice-presidents;

We’ve got a lot to do.

Fat to cut. Functions to streamline.

Severance packages to fabricate.

Transitional strategies to invent.

 

Bonuses for everyone!

 

We have a growth plan:

We acquire failing companies

From desperate sellers for rock bottom prices,

And suck the marrow out of their bones

To cover this quarter’s shortfall,

And leave communities, and counties, and entire states

With zombie newspapers or

None at all, if that pencils out.

 

I go to conventions and make speeches

About doing “more with less”

And intra-market operational efficiencies

And cross-platform synergies

And the digital imperative.

 

I never talk about people.

We are not in the people business.

I don’t talk about readers because

I don’t know any readers.

I know metrics and P&L and ROI

And the board chairman’s favorite Scotch.

 

I was once E&P’s Publisher of the Year.

And got fired the next month

By a guy at corporate

Who used to be beet farmer.

 

When the dark side beckoned

I was ready.

 

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