Disclaimer: This is a fictional account of a news briefing that may have happened last night at a fictitious newspaper. None of this is real, although it could very well have been.

Editor: Welcome gentlemen, I trust you’ve got my slugs. So what’ve we got on the menu today?

News Editor: [sitting down] Sir, today’s big three are Wali Babar, Ukraine and…

Web Editor: [interjects] The Guardian piece on Express Tribune has also been getting a lot of traction today. I saw it all over my Twitter feed.

News Editor: [dismissively] That’s not important. We don’t name competitors or their employees on the news pages unless it’s an obituary… or a legal notice.

Editor: [leans forward] I’m sorry, but what about the Express Tribune?

Web Editor: Sir, they have stopped criticizing the Taliban and are playing…

News Editor: [raises his voice] THAT’S… NOT IMPORTANT, sir.

[pauses, takes a breath, resumes far more calmly] The lead for the day is obviously the sentencing in the Wali Khan Babar case. Great story, it’ got that lovely touch that will make us warm and fuzzy with the sahafi baradari and remind people what it’s like to be a journalist. People have already seen the coverage today. We should run more colour coverage. Talk to the brother, ask him what he was going to say about the man from London before the Geo anchor cut him off. We can run a side story on the paper, profiling you as the fearless publisher who doesn’t take orders from trigger-happy bandits like the TTP.

Web Editor: [persistently] EXACTLY! And we can dovetail that coverage and run the Guardian piece, monitor kar key. That way, WE’RE not saying anything; we’re just reprinting what the Guardian published, which we can do, right…?

News Editor: [exasperated] No, we can’t. It’s illegal. Which is why we’ve hired a lawyer to deal with the 4,721 notices we’ve received regarding articles you’ve monitored from various publications across the world.

Web Editor: [indignantly] Hey, you guys were fine with the idea when it meant that you could have top quality content for a fraction of the cost. You all loved it, couldn’t wait to lay off all the surplus. I got a fat raise out of it, but I also have to work thrice as hard. So please, excuse me. I’m just 50 percent of what keeps this rag going in the first place.

Editor: [soothingly] Have you quite finished, young man?

Web Editor: [sheepishly] Yessir.

Editor: [with a satisfied look] Good. Now, News Editor sahib, I want you to let this young man here lay out the front page. I agree with you that the Wali Babar story will be our major play today, but I also want to appear to be the statesman publisher. Run the Geo story next to the Express story. Two boxes, side by side. And there will be a photo-collage in the background, photos of all the dead Pakistani journalists. Put the headline on top in blood red and black out the masthead. Fully dramatic. You, boy! [pointing to web editor], I want you to capture the spirit of what I’ve imagined here just now. Go and put that on a sheet of A3 paper and bring it to me. Pronto. Go, go, go. [Waves him out].

News Editor: [sits down after listening patiently] Sarkar, why do you indulge that boy so much? What does he know about newspaper policies? It is a Machiavellian art-form, too important a task to be entrusted to this Twitter-er. Do you know that he thinks the Plates Section washes the dinner dishes? He has no idea, no iota of understanding what he’s doing here…

Editor: Yaar, don’t you think I know this? I’ve been struggling with this idea myself. But the fact of the matter is… you’ve got to harness potential like this at a very young age. If we can convert him now, he will be our most faithful follower. Twenty years from now, when you and I are long gone, he will still be sitting in your chair, laboring over the semantics of a preposition in a headline with some young subeditor. He’s the future, because he knows this Twitter business. And what’s more, whatever he seems to be injecting in these pages seems to be working. We have many hits on the Internet, our circulation figures are slowly climbing and I’m getting invited to younger people-type parties.

News Editor: [contemplates this] So what about the rest of the editorial meeting, sir?

Editor: [absent-mindedly] Oh, that? Put Ukraine on the back page, bottom half. Stick everything else inside. Put the Express story in a window at the front and then print a 200-word story somewhere deep in the inside pages. You know more about this stuff than I do. Do what you would normally do. Oh, and my wife’s exhibition is opening today, so carry a nice photo of her on the back page. When she notices how fat she looks in that sari when she opens the paper tomorrow, I’ll point her to the misery of those suffering in the Crimean and distract her swiftly.

News Editor: [visibly impressed with wife handling] What about the eager beaver? What do I do with the page he’s off designing right now?

Editor: Tell him I couldn’t open the PDF file on my Blackberry. Tell him I couldn’t approve it in time and you had to improvise.

News Editor: You’re the boss, boss.

 The writer is a former journalist currently working in the development sector.

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