Cory Spondent wakes up at 4:40AM. He rolls over to his open laptop to check his emails. Sure enough, there's one from his editor—arrived less than ten minutes ago—asking him why their biggest competitor broke a story before Cory's employer and rent-payer, the Daily Allowance.
Cory sighs. Maybe he needs to wake up earlier.
Rushing into work by 5:45AM, he sees ten of his co-workers hovering around a flat-screen television.
"Who made the top ten today?" he asks.
"Why even ask? You've made it for the fourth day in a row," answers Jessica, his office nemesis.
To foster a competitive atmosphere, the Daily Allowance lists the top stories of the day. The list is based on how many viewers clicked to a journalist's article. Not only does it foster a cutthroat work environment, but journalists at the Daily Allowance are paid per click. The more clicks, the more moolah you take home.
Cory's story about the use of carbon monoxide on meat made the list. Carbon monoxide keeps meat looking red, which is appealing to consumers, but food regulators are uneasy about techniques that alter the apparent freshness of the meat. Cory made the smart move to cover the story in July—right when people are buying lots of meat for grilling.
"It was just luck," Cory says. He walks back to his desk, puffing his chest out a bit, thinking of his own love of grilling. He sees his editor waiting for him.
"What're you working on today?" James asks. "I want to see your name up there again tomorrow."
James—or as everyone in the office knows him, "Lames"—is the type of editor journalists see in their worst nightmares. There's a bet going around the office on when he's going to finally lose it and try to fire everyone.
Cory always bets it'll be tomorrow.
"I'm working on a presidential coverage piece," he says.
James shakes his head, "Nope. I need something more appealing."
"I meant I was working on a piece that covered the presidential elections from the eyes of a dog."
"I need more from you, Cory. Dogs have been out for ten years. How about Bigfoot?"
"Sounds good." Cory shuffles over the remaining distance to his desk, trying to think of political issues Bigfoot might care about. Tax subsidies for hair and grooming salons? Environmental protection? As he approaches his desk, he sees that the errand guy has left the usual onion bagel and extra-large coffee for Cory. Thank goodness.
Starting around 9:30AM, Cory spends his morning researching Bigfoot. He calls the Bigfoot Discovery Project in northern California. He interviews the curator to find out if Bigfoot would vote Republican or Democrat. Cory finds out that Bigfoot is an Independent, because he likes small government, but he also feels the government should enforce stricter gun laws.
Yes, the curator concedes, it's a complicated, nuanced position, but reports of conversations with Bigfoot have contained no further discussion on the matter.
Cory lunches at his desk, working steadily on the Bigfoot lead, and by 12:30PM he has his research down and starts to write the article. But without warning, James (Lames) appears once again next to Cory's desk.
"Cory. You need to finish up the Bigfoot article as soon as possible. There are three other sites running stories on Justin Bieber's wardrobe, and I need a blog post from you by the end of today. Title of blog: Justin Bieber's Sock Drawer. Call his maid and interview her. Here's her contact information. She's willing to talk about his 3,000 pairs of socks."
Great. Thanks Lames.
Cory gives James a weak smile and tries not to think of his master's degree in journalism from Columbia. Before he started his career, he was writing articles about the civil war in Rwanda. He got his job at the Daily Allowance after the newspaper he was interning at went under.
The Daily Allowance isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. That said, keeping up with the pace of social media is tiring and not so fulfilling. Cory sometimes thinks of joining the Peace Corps, but he's a little nervous about the prospect of leaving home for over two years. Plus there must be, like, a ninety percent chance of getting terrible sunburn at some point on one of those trips.
At 1:29PM, Cory finishes the Bigfoot article and hands it in. After one moment of glory, someone from the back of the office informs him that his article is no longer in the top ten for the day. But that's just how it is in this business: the happy feelings are always fleeting, because there's always some new story to move on to. Cory grimaces and gets back to work on the Biebs and his socks.
He checks the clock. 4:30PM. The day is speeding by and he has to finish this Bieber blog. The maid has been only too happy to give out information. She apparently wasn't a fan of Bieber's last album, nor of his general ignorance of the labor associated with washing 3,000 pairs of socks.
Cory finishes the blog at 5:00PM. He's been working for almost thirteen hours, but he's not done. He needs to go home to work on his personal blog posting. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees James yelling at Jessica, so he tries to sneak out.
Before he's able to make it to the door, James sneaks up behind him.
"Cory—good work on the Bigfoot piece. You just might make tomorrow's top ten list. I hope this Bieber story is of the same high quality." James follows this declaration with an incredibly awkward high-five. It's amazing this guy works at a place that's supposed to be culturally relevant.
Cory catches the subway home at precisely 5:18PM. He feels good. When he's meeting deadlines and making the top ten list, he feels okay about his job. When those things aren't happening, well...it usually helps to concentrate a little more on his personal blog.
Things are good now, though, and Cory can't help but keep tracking the progress on today's articles. Looks like both Bigfoot and Bieber are grabbing readers' attention.
Cory smiles as he walks the few blocks from the subway stop to his apartment. He might not be covering breaking news or global political issues, but for the moment he'll settle for being good at his job. There's lots of career left for him to make his way down more serious journalistic avenues.