Thursday, July 16, 2009

“Interview”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(7-09)



It was a beautiful summer morning in New York City.

My view of the day came through the 81st-floor windows of a corporate skyscraper. I had been waiting in the high-rise suite of offices for nearly forty-five minutes. My intention was simple – to interview for a full-time position with one of the nation’s best known media companies.

Yet restlessness swelled in my veins.

I was beginning to long for the pastoral beauty of Geauga. My taste of the ‘Big Apple’ had turned sour as impatience took hold.

More than anything, I just wanted to go home.

Suddenly a door opened from across the waiting room. A well-groomed junior executive appeared in the doorway. He wore a khaki suit and powder-blue shirt. “Mr. Ice?”

“Yes,” I said, clutching back issues of The Maple Leaf.

“Please, come in!” he said with a sense of professional detachment. “I am Giles Mead, Director of Human Resources.”

I followed his direction, and took a seat in front of an oversized desk. It was made of bamboo poles, lashed together. “It is a pleasure to be called here. Thank you.”

He smiled politely. “Of course.”

I looked around the office while he shuffled through a personnel folder. The prevailing décor was reminiscent of a jungle outpost.

“You’ve got quite a workspace here,” I observed.

He took a deep breath. “Yes, thank you. My intent was to step away stylistically from the drudgery of everyday life.”

I pondered a carved gourd on his bookshelf. “Well, you’ve accomplished that goal, I think.”

He raised an eyebrow. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed while I squirmed in my seat. Then, he began my interview.

“So… what do you know about The New York Times?” he asked.

I struggled for a proper reply. “Well, what I know is that your paper is one recognized by readers across the globe.”

Mead brightened. “Yes. Very true! We have an international presence. But with the industry in transition, our ownership has decided that it is time to broaden the company portfolio.”

I was puzzled. “Broaden… your portfolio?”

“Indeed!” he cheered. “We want to reach a more diverse group of readers. Therefore, our intention is to launch another publication. The ‘Great Lakes Gazetteer!”

I gulped. “A geographical newspaper?”

“No, no. We intended it to be a clever anachronism,” he explained. “A reference to past traditions. Have you studied the ‘York Gazetteer’ from eighteenth-century England?”

My face burned with embarrassment. “Umm, no. I haven’t.”

Mead rubbed his eyes. “A pity. But, no matter. We feel that this new journal will speak to citizens in the heartland. A… different demographic from ‘The Times.’ That’s why you’ve been asked to interview with us.”

I bowed my head. “Again, thank you!”

The Human Resources chieftain pulled out a printed copy of my resume. “So, Mr. Ice. Tell me about your background. How did you become a professional writer?”

“Well,” I mumbled. “As you can see, my career began in 1982…”

“No!” he scolded. “I know your work history from reading this resume. What is your life story… reading between the lines?”

The question made me nervous. “Well, I grew up in a family inclined toward creative writing, music, and art.”

He was pleased. “Very good. Go on!”

“My first office was in the basement of our house, at the age of ten,” I continued. “An extra trash barrel topped with a plywood square was my first desk. And I had a functional, plastic typewriter.”

He was growing excited. “Ah yes… a ‘Baby Boom’ beginning. So… this led you to become a progressive journalist?”

“Progressive?” I said with confusion.

“An advocate for social responsibility,” he explained. “A voice in the darkness.”

“Actually, my intention was to write honestly,” I answered. “Without preconceived notions. Isn’t that the job of a reporter?”

Mead frowned. “You’ve lost me, Mr. Ice.”

I was rattled. “Umm… sorry!”

“Don’t you feel a ‘calling’ to do good through your career?” he yelped.

“Well, sure,” I acquiesced. “I think honest analysis and reporting is… good.”

He sighed loudly, and scribbled notes on a yellow pad of paper.

“As a columnist, my own perspective is useful,” I said. “But as a journalist, I prefer to let the subject take center stage. Think of the root word in newspaper. We are in the business of… news.”

The Human Resource master shook his head. “You’ve lost me again. What was your point, Mr. Ice?”

My hands began to tremble. “I want to report news events. Nothing more.”

He looked dumbfounded. Sweat had begun to form over his brows. “Everyone in our business shares that goal,” he snapped.

My uneasiness grew. “With respect, I’d have to disagree.”

Mead huffed with discontent. “Disagree? What are you trying to say?”

“Only that not everyone has the same philosophy about writing for a newspaper,” I observed. “Some approach this craft with… well… a personal agenda.”

He loosened the collar of his pastel shirt. “This is becoming tiresome. I am lost, lost lost. Can you explain yourself?”

My voice went hoarse. “I believe in our duty to be a dependable source of truth. Anything else belongs on the editorial page.”

His mood went still. “Okay! Let’s change the subject.”

I nodded in agreement.

“What about fairness?” he stammered. “Do you support fairness in the media?”

“Of course,” I said. “One could hardly oppose fairness as a goal.”

“But how would you define that term?” he thundered.

“Well, to be ‘fair’ is to… analyze all sides of an argument,” I proposed.

“And to spotlight the good, while shunning the bad?” he concluded.

“Umm… determining ‘good’ and ‘bad’ isn’t always easy,” I said. “That is best left to ordinary folk.”

Mead scratched furiously at his notepad. “Do you really think so?”

My face went red. “I do. We are in the business of ‘news’ as I said before…”

“Yes, yes, yes!” he snorted. “Hoorah for the news!”

Silence filled the room. He reveled in the wordless pause. Then, my interview resumed once more.

“Mr. Ice,” he said. “Do you think it is the responsibility of a newspaper to educate its readers?”

“Yes, undoubtedly so, I said.

“And to uplift the unsophisticated masses?” he prodded.

My pulse quickened. “I am uncomfortable with your premise.”

Mead growled with irritation. “Aren’t you more intelligent than the average schlub?”

I chuckled at his terminology. “That supposition makes me uneasy. It borders on arrogance.”

“Mr. Ice! Please!” he begged. “We are a different breed. Put here to help those who aren’t so gifted to get along…”

Tension made it difficult to speak. But finally, I was able to wheeze out a response.

“My method is to respect readers, instead of viewing them in a condescending manner,” I proclaimed.

The Human Resource potentate chewed his tongue. “Well then! Thank you Mr. Ice. Good day to you!”

I was stunned. “Huh??”

“Thanks for coming,” he intoned. “If necessary, we will notify you as the hiring process continues.”

The office door swung open, forcefully.

“Good day!” he shouted.

I was breathless. What had just happened?

“Good day, sir!” he said again.

My big-city interview had ended!

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