The pungent aroma of black Colombian coffee mingled with the scent of printer ink wafted through the doorway and greeted Matthew’s nostrils as he sauntered into the newspaper office. His ears caught the clickity-clack of dozens of computer keyboards typing out what likely each of their owners thought was the latest, greatest piece of news. Though he wagered that all would wilt in comparison to whatever he could dish out.
“Hey, Matt! I read your article on that mob boss in the paper yesterday. That was totally wicked!”
“Hey, hey, thanks Jimmy, my man. There was nothing to it.” Matthew slapped Jimmy a high-five and then proceeded in their knuckle-slammin’, finger-twistin’ special handshake.
“I mean really,” Jimmy continued, “That article was one of the best I’ve ever read. It was almost as awesome as yesterday’s sports story.”
Matthew’s narcissistic grin suddenly faded, his ego suffering from a punch to the gut. Then he lightened again.
“Oh, yeah right! Good joke, Jimmy.” He gave his buddy a friendly smack on the back.
“No, I mean it. That lady who wrote the sports column is unbelievable. I felt like I was actually watching the game.”
“Big deal. That’s not nearly as interesting as my mob story. Besides, I’ll bet you a week’s salary that I could have done better.”
“With sports? How so?” Jimmy crossed his arms with a look that challenged “Yeah, prove it”.
“I got a tip from a friend of mine who said that the winning basketball team has been suspected of using steroids.”
He watched as Jimmy’s eyes doubled in size, then added, “Now wouldn’t that make a juicy edition of the sports column?”
Jimmy recovered some. “But that team is known for their high standards. They never cheat.”
“All the more reason why the story would be perfect.”
“But you can’t just go on a lead. You’ve got to look into the facts and be ready to back up your story. You need testimonies and proof.”
“You sound more like a judge in a courtroom than a journalist.” He rested his hands on the long plastic table behind him which held the coffee makers and leaned back.
“Come on, man. Even the most unethical journalist knows that you have to investigate the facts. What if you were to write an article stating that a team whose players have flawless records has suddenly been discovered to have been using steroids?
Somebody’s definitely going to look into it and if they find that it’s just a rumor, you’ll be the one whose reputation gets marred.”
Before he could make a witty comeback, Matthew heard his name being called. And then a pretty secretary recited the phrase that he had longed to hear for months.
“The chief would like to see you.”
He cast a smug grin at Jimmy and straightened his jacket. “Promotion time.”
“Ah Matthew, I need to speak with you.” The editor-in-chief announced as the confident journalist entered his office. His tone was more business-like than Matthew liked to hear.
The chief folded his hands. “As of today, I am transferring you to the sports column and giving Vicky your place in investigative reporting.”
Matthew felt the floor sinking beneath his chair.
“We’re . . . switching places? But sir, what about my story?”
“Your story contained statements that were found to be false. I need someone trustworthy like Vicky who will get the facts straight rather than chasing rumors. She found out just today that someone has been trying to frame that team called "the Witnesses" by claiming that they use steroids. If you had investigated like that for your mob article, you’d know that the lead you had on the mob boss was erroneous. The real godfather is no doubt pleased that you led public scrutiny away from him.”
Matthew was speechless. He’d followed the wrong lead? How had he allowed that to happen?
Maybe by not finding enough proof.
“Let this be a lesson to you, Matthew. You’re lucky I don’t suspend you entirely. As it is, Vicky begged me to let you have her job. Such a sweet girl. Now get going! I want to see an unembellished story for tonight’s game on my desk by morning.”
As he was dejectedly closing the door to the editor’s office, Matthew heard Jimmy’s voice in the hall behind him.
“So will the world’s best journalist be getting an extra bonus today or does he owe me his week's salary?"
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