You are a local news reporter for a failing network. Your boss tells you to ramp up the news by getting “creative” and constructing your own stories. What’s the first fake news story you create and broadcast on air?
* * *
“Hello, Milwaukee! Welcome to another edition of Farrah’s Fugitives, where we listen to the other side of the APB. We begin with an update on Gareth Gordon, last week’s fugitive. He was picked up in Madison on Tuesday and is now in custody. His preliminary hearing is next week.”
That’s Farrah St. Peter, the rising star at my station. She’s a natural in front of the camera, and forms an instant bond with anyone she interviews. Her big break came two weeks ago when Weatherbee, our producer, gathered the staff for a meeting.
“We need to spice up the news, people. We’re dead last in viewership. I know you kids won’t like it, but we have to get creative with the news.”
“You mean fake stories, don’t you?” Brock, was our anchor. “Not going to happen, Bee. That kills careers faster than anchoring the last broadcast of the newsroom.”
Everyone agreed. We had to think of our jobs after this sweatshop shut down. That’s when Farrah had The Idea.
“Why don’t we air the back side of the news? Interview people we normally can’t?”
“Why don’t we just air your backside, Farrah? That would be news.” Terry Coventry had always been a pig.
“I mean it! Choose something controversial: how about people running from the police? They’d definitely have stories to tell.”
Weatherbee agreed to give it a trial. The first Friday we aired an interview with Steve Donald, on the run for robbing a bank. It was a hit. Gordon came second: embezzlement. We knew we had a winner.
“Today we’re meeting with Rob Edelmeier, wanted in connection with a murder in Wausau. So, Mr. Edelmeier, what’s your story? Why do the police want to speak with you?”
“Hello, Farrah. The police are accusing me of the murder of Wanda Schiller, a convenience store clerk whose naked mutilated body was found yesterday. They say it was done by a big man.”
He smiled, showing off his six-foot seven frame and arms like tree trunks. The shaved head and unshaved face didn’t help the impression. I figured him for a good suspect.
“But I’m setting the record straight. I didn’t kill her, she died after she got away from me. I did kill the other four, though.”
Farrah turned to run but a huge hand grabbed her face and dragged her back. He turned toward me as I backed away.
“Now you! Camera girly. You finish this story, and if it don’t air tomorrow I’ll start sending Farrah back in little boxes. Got it?”
“So this is Faith Devereaux, concluding the segment with a plea to Mr. Edelmeier. Please don’t hurt Farrah; everyone at the station wants her back safe and sound. Please, turn yourself in so you can get the help you need.” I shut the camera off in tears.
“That what you wanted, girl?”
“Yup. My big break. And you’re sure she’ll never be seen again?”
“Not all at once.” His hand muffled Farrah’s scream.