A/N: Small disclaimer: I am totally not a playwrite. I wrote this a few years ago as a theatre project for school. The gist of the assignment was to write a one act character piece about whatever the hell we wanted. This piece is short and quasi-political in the sense that it attempts to criticize modern journalism and the 24-hour news cycle. For the most part, it generalizes a very complex issue that I personally have conflicting opinions on, and as such may be slightly problematic, but that is ultimately up to you to decide. I debated whether or not to expand upon this (read: make it a longer play), but decided against it because it is a fairly closed piece and formatting screenplays is a bitch and a half. If anyone wants to see this expanded or is interested in me fleshing out the ideas feel free to let me know!


THE DEATH OF THE NEWSPAPER
A Play in One Act

Cast of Characters

Charlie Prose: An aging reporter in slacks and shirtsleeves.
Sarah Stewart: A fiery idealist in casual clothing made to look professional.

SETTING: A cluttered office space. There are no cubicles, and the space more resembles an empty loft full of makeshift workstations. There are about five computer monitors set up about the space, and even more stacks of papers atop the desks but in particular surrounding the bulletin board hanging up to one side. One desk looks neater than the others. One desk is decorated with flamboyantly colored little baubles and coffee mugs. These two desks are a ways apart but they are facing one another. Additionally, there are a few televisions set up around the space.

ACT I
Scene 1

AT RISE:

CHARLIE PROSE is seated at the desk that is the least cluttered than the rest. He is writing furiously in a notebook steadfastly ignoring the computer in front of him. After a beat SARAH STEWART enters STAGE RIGHT and immediately strides to the bulletin board snatching a paper from it.

STEWART

(Waving the paper around.)

Read it and weep, Charlie!

PROSE

What is it?

STEWART

Only the monthly reports.

PROSE

Those don't come out until tomorrow.

STEWART

That's the great part about working overtime, Charlie. Boss gets everything ready before she leaves, which means that you get to see tomorrow's bulletin today.

PROSE

I assume you're so excited about it because you've finally managed to exit the barrels of mediocrity. Tell me, have you actually started pulling your weight, amateur?

STEWART

I've been pulling my weight since I got here and you know it. You gotta get that stick out of your ass and face the facts: I'm better than you, babe.

PROSE

So, some brats online think you're a good writer. That doesn't make you a good reporter.

STEWART

Alright-y then, what makes a good reporter?

(Dramatically.)

Please, impart your great wisdom unto me sensei.

PROSE

Well, it goes without saying.

(A beat.)

Your shoes should always match your belt.

STEWART

I'm serious.

PROSE

As am I.

STEWART

Just face it, the only difference between what you do and what I do is how many people see it, Charlie, and right now that means that I'm the top dog.

PROSE

I spend more time on my articles than you do. I put time and effort into my stories. You just whack them out. You face it. The things on your website aren't half as credible as ink and paper no matter what the numbers say.

STEWART

Oh, come off it, Charlie! If your medium is as important as you seem to think it is then you'd think you'd have better things to do.

PROSE

Yes, because you're oh so busy right now aren't you, Stewart. Checking your phone on the job like the rest of your generation?

STEWART

See, the best part about the job is that it actually is online. Lots of information on the internet, y'know.

PROSE

We're a local paper.

STEWART

We're a global society.

PROSE

What does that have to do with our local newspaper?

STEWART

The people don't just want to hear about what's going on in town anymore. They want to hear about the world! There's big news breaking 24/7 everywhere and the internet is right in the middle of all of it.

PROSE

I don't trust the internet.

STEWART

Oh, please.

PROSE

You shouldn't trust the internet!

STEWART

Oooo, are the big bad technology monsters out to destroy journalistic integrity?

PROSE

(Turns on the television nearest to him, and shows his back to STEWART.)

Get back to work, Stewart.

STEWART

Ugh. You couldn't have chosen a better news network?

PROSE

I don't see why it matters to you. Won't you just be tracking pound signs on Tweeting?

STEWART

Okay, you're just doing it on purpose now.

(Crossing to the colorful desk.)

I'm not falling for that one again.

PROSE

Mm...I don't hear you working.

(STEWART goes about setting up her workstation very dramatically and noisily before settling down. SHE and PROSE watch the news and work for a short period.)

STEWART

That's just terrible. They don't have enough information. They know they don't have enough information.

PROSE

That's the problem with the 24-hour news network.

STEWART

The news works on a 24-hour system; it doesn't matter what medium it's running on. The news doesn't just stop happening when the reporters go to bed. It's why poor schmucks like us have to stay up until two in the morning monitoring it.

PROSE

I said network, Sarah, not system. This is the problem with the 24-hour news network.

STEWART

(A beat.)

You know, you never answered my question.

PROSE

Which question was that?

STEWART

The one about how to be a good reporter.

PROSE

You seem to think you've got the right idea already.

STEWART

I'm a good writer. I know I'm a good writer. The boss seems to think I'm a good reporter, you obviously have a different opinion.

PROSE

Journalistic integrity.

STEWART

The thing the internet's supposedly destroying –

PROSE

(Overlapping.)

The internet makes it difficult –

STEWART (CON'T)

(Raising her voice over PROSE.)

- so…you think that just because I report via the internet that I've lost all "integrity" as a reporter?

PROSE

I'm not saying that.

STEWART

Then what are you saying?

PROSE

I'm saying that the nature of your platform makes the type of journalism you do less reliable, less honest.

STEWART

I find a story, gather information, and then report on it. How is it any different from what you do?

PROSE

It's more...urgent.

STEWART

I'm not following.

PROSE

What you do is too fast. There's no...no effort. You don't have to work for the information, because all you need to do is Google it. And you conduct most of your interviews using your email. There isn't any research, there isn't any personality. It's not solid like ink and paper.

STEWART

A story doesn't need to, to be tactile for it to be trusted. Jesus Christ in a birch canoe, Charlie, it doesn't need to be printed to be sincere or personal. The internet is a resource. It helps streamline information so that it is easier for me to find what I need, and I can get my work done faster, sometimes well before my deadlines.

STEWART (CON'T)

I don't need to work around a person's schedule to interview them, all they need to do is sit down for a few minutes and Skype me, or, yes, through email because I don't have to travel over county lines just to ask them what they think of the upcoming election.

PROSE

People only read online articles because they're free. The newspaper is a dying medium because your entire generation is so used to instant gratification they can't wait to read good news anymore.

STEWART

Bull shit, Charlie! Don't make this about some generational divide. The newspaper hasn't died, it's just moved.

(A beat. Calmer.)

Look, I get where you're coming from – I really do. And, sure, I'll admit that the internet is infamous for jumping the gun when it comes to breaking news. But my job isn't to jump the gun, it's to sort through the garbage and report the fucking truth. I do exactly what you do, just on a different platform. You want the real death of journalistic integrity then go back to what you were saying earlier: it's the network's fault.

PROSE

The network.

STEWART

Yes, the fucking network! CNN, FOX, NBC, the whole lot of them! We give you news coverage twenty-four-fucking-seven, which means we'll start reporting on something before we even know if there's a story yet. Who gives a shit about journalistic integrity, we'll give you excitement and speculation. Facts? What are facts? Ain't nobody got time for that!

PROSE

(Agreeing.)

And everyone else is left in the dust trying to catch up. We all have to compete with the networks.

STEWART

So, who gives a shit about journalistic integrity?

PROSE

(A beat.)

You do.

STEWART

Yeah, yeah I do, Charlie. I really fucking do.

(PROSE CROSSES to STEWART tentatively in the silence that follows. It is a charged moment, and STEWART is still wound. HE puts a hand to her shoulder.)

PROSE

You're a good reporter kid.

STEWART

Thanks.

PROSE

It's just hard watching your livelihood change drastically around you.

STEWART

No, no, I get it.

PROSE

I apologize.

STEWART

Please. I know you didn't actually think that little of me, Charlie. You're an ass, but it's only because you're jealous.

PROSE

I still apologize.

STEWART

Accepted, then, if you're gonna be insistent about it.

PROSE

However, while I agree with you about the network, that does not mean I've changed my opinion about the internet. It may not do as much evil as the network, but it does its own damage.

STEWART

Touché. But I think I'll stick with it all the same. Lotta people can read what I write y'know.

PROSE

If everyone on the web cared as much as you do I think I'd have less to worry about.

STEWART

Ugh, no one calls it the web anymore, Charlie.

PROSE

Is that so?

STEWART

I'm sure you are well aware of that.

PROSE

Could be.

STEWART

Hey! Maybe we can work on getting you online, eh? There's room aplenty. I'm sure we could find a nice and cozy niche for you.

PROSE

Uh, no thank-you Stewart. I found my niche a long time ago.

STEWART

Nope, no, I've convinced myself. Charlie Prose needs to get himself a spot online.

PROSE

That is really unnecessary.

STEWART

Come hell or high water, Charlie, I'm getting you on our website.

PROSE

I would really prefer staying on the newspaper, thank you.

STEWART

You said it yourself, the livelihood is changing, time to change along with it. Look, I can get you set up with some really easy beginners stuff –

PROSE

(Overlapping protests.)

No. No really. I'm fine. Please don't.

(PROSE and STEWART continue to talk over one another.)

(LIGHTS FADE)

(END OF SCENE)