By BEN R. WILLIAMS
(Author’s note: This column is dedicated to my friends in the Roanoke Times newsroom, which recently experienced yet another round of devastating layoffs. Ya’ll are in my thoughts.)
Greetings, shareholders! This is Max Proffit, President and CEO of Conglomo Enterprises, the sprawling corporate holding company that owns half the newspapers in this country! Of course, we don’t just own newspapers; we like to keep a lot of irons in the fire here at Conglomo. Whether you use EnerCell batteries, or like to eat at Dairy King, or have experienced the horrifying majesty of a Deathstalker unmanned combat drone, one of our subsidiary products has touched and/or ended your life.
Of course, our newspaper division holds a special place in our heart. It’s often been said that McDonald’s isn’t in the fast food business, it’s in the real estate business. Our newspaper division is just like that, the only difference being that McDonald’s provides an affordable product that meets certain quality standards.
While we’ve seen great financial success in our newspaper division in recent years, there has admittedly been some bad press lately, most of it shared by newspapers owned by the massive corporate holding company that owns the other half of the newspapers in this country. Some are even beginning to doubt the wisdom of our board of directors.
Rest assured, our board knows exactly what it’s doing. Our ten board members have a combined 1,347 years of experience in the newspaper industry, and when they’re revived from the Lazarus Pit each quarter, their energetic croakings provide a guiding light for our management team.
The chief criticism of our operations has been that Conglomo Enterprises buys up established, quality newspapers, then immediately outsources print operations to a nearby state and increases the subscription price. When customers balk because they can no longer afford the paper or it’s two weeks out of date when it arrives in their mailbox, we cut costs by laying off most of our journalists, and then we increase the subscription price again. Every time a customer complains that their paper is late/too expensive/not relevant to anything happening within 100 miles of their home, we repeat this cycle. This has been dubbed “The ‘Survivor Type’ Effect,” named after a Stephen King short story about a surgeon who survives on a desert island by eating himself.
Are these criticisms fair? Well, yes. But to be clear, our critics don’t seem to understand that we’re trying to steer print journalism in an exciting new direction.
You see, we here at Conglomo Enterprises have realized that journalists are a needy lot. They’re all the time begging for “benefits” and “living wages.” All this complaining, despite the fact that many of them own such luxuries as refrigerators, and at least half live in buildings with windows!
To make matters worse, journalists are always wanting to write about boring stuff like city council meetings and the local school system and zoning boards. You know how many clicks you get on that sort of thing? I’ll tell you how many: a lot less than you get from a story about Mr. Potato Head’s gender.
Yes, it’s high time for print journalism to take a cue from online journalism. Buzzfeed, for example, has proven that we don’t need fancy, highfalutin “journalists” with “degrees” and “standards.” All we need are folks who are semi-literate and understand how to write an article that makes people angry, or how to assemble a clickbait article out of a Reddit post.
With that in mind, Conglomo Enterprises has a special announcement just for our shareholders: at the end of this quarter, we plan to lay off the remainder of our journalists.
Who will we replace them with, you ask? The answer: not who, but what! Conglomo Enterprises is proud to announce that we’ll be hiring hundreds of test monkeys from our chemical weapons subsidiary and using them to replace our journalists. While the majority of these monkeys have severe brain damage and behavior issues caused by years of exposure to various poison gases, we have nonetheless found that their reporting is actually more accurate than that of the average clickbait journalist. Unfortunately, the monkeys are slightly more expensive, but we can capture some cost savings on the insurance side (monkeys don’t seem to live too long, or at least these don’t).
There has been concern that the monkeys may try to form a union. Fortunately, one member of our board of directors is a former Baldwin-Felts strikebreaker who committed some of the more creative union-busting atrocities during the Battle of Matewan, so we’re confident that we can address any monkey unions should they arise.
Of course, this step is just a stopgap, and we’re already making plans to lay off about half of the monkeys in the fourth quarter. Having said that, our board of directors is confident that these changes will increase our profit margin by six percent, which is ultimately the only thing that matters.
Yes, one day soon, Conglomo Enterprises will finally attain its ultimate goal: the creation of a newspaper devoid of any content whatsoever. What will this look like? Some theorize that our perfect newspaper will be the size of a postage stamp and feature nothing but a crude drawing of an upraised middle finger pointed squarely at the reader. It will cost $450, and the carrier will be weeping as he delivers it.