By Invitation Only

By: Lori Wilde

1

Breaking news from the blog, Man About Texas, by Nicolas Greer

Have you heard the word? Another good bachelor bites the dust. Playboy extraordinaire, J. D. Maynard, (yes, he is the son of James Dallas Maynard Sr., the richest oil tycoon in Texas), went down on one knee in front of Hollywood’s latest “it” girl, überglam Holly Addison. Rumor has it that Holly’s said yes, and they’re planning a summer wedding. My heart is breaking, fellas. Say it ain’t so, J.D.! Holly’s hot as a firecracker and all that, but this is your freedom we’re talking about here. Run for the hills while you still can….

“YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.” Olivia Carmichael crumpled the printout of the odious Nicolas Greer’s blog in one hand and stared at her boss as if he’d just ordered her to strip off her clothes and streak naked through Austin’s state capitol building.

The managing editor of the Austin Daily News, Ross Gregson, shook his head. Ross was a crusty holdout from journalism’s hard news heyday and she loved him for it. He was a visage of her childhood filled with arguing reporters ringing the dinner table and the television set perpetually tuned to CNN.

“Much as it pains me to say this, kiddo, ’fraid not.” Ross was pushing seventy and sported a shock of stark white hair that sprouted straight up from his head in an old-fashioned crew cut. He always wore white dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up three turns so that the makeshift cuff hit him mid-elbow. At his neck lay a stained tie gone crooked from where he repeatedly tugged at the knot. He possessed a sandpaper-like voice, pugnacious nose and caterpillar eyebrows. He kept an unlit cigar permanently chomped in the left corner of his mouth and a foam cup of stale coffee on his desk.

“You want me to write like an uneducated frat boy high on Krispy Kreme doughnuts and late night reruns of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle?”

Ross shifted the cigar to the other side of his mouth and held out both his palms low and wide. “Hey, I feel your pain, but the times are changing, and we either change with them or get ground under the wheels of progress.”

“Platitudes from you, Ross? What’s the world coming to?”

“The likes of Nick Greer.”

“Ugh.” She held the printout away from her as if it were soiled laundry. Out of all the bloggers in the world, why had Ross chosen this particular cretin for her to emulate? She’d had more than one run in with Greer, who was too handsome for his own good, and she had been less than impressed with his flip, in-your-face style. “I was born in the wrong generation.”

“I hear ya, and I hate being the bearer of bad news, but you know the brass is all about the bottom line. It’s a shark tank out there.”

“It’s bad enough I got pulled from cop shop to work on lifestyles for crying out loud….”

Two months ago, the budget had been cut yet again, and while she should consider herself lucky to have a job, reporters had been shuffled and she’d lost the coveted police beat and landed in her own personal hell of fluff features. Her goal was to do so well in lifestyles that the upper echelon would realize they were wasting her talents on interviewing charity-ball-throwing socialites and put her back where she belonged amidst murder and mayhem.

She flexed her left wrist so the platinum bracelet she’d worn since college slipped down and flipped the Pulitzer medal charm—a replica of the one her grandfather’s paper had won in 1946—into her palm. Her grandfather had had it made for her and had presented it to her at her college graduation. Olivia cupped her fingers around the charm, felt the warm weight of family obligations against her skin. She was a Carmichael after all; she had a tradition to uphold. Her ultimate goal was to be the best reporter at the Austin Daily News so that when her mother regained her health, she could return to D.C. and snag back her old job at the Washington Post.

“I know you’re eager to make your mark,” Ross said, his gaze going to her fist, “but the number of people following Nick Greer’s blog outstrips our circulation numbers threefold. We’ve got to adapt or die off. Readers want instant news delivered in a flashy package.”

“Journalistic integrity be damned?”

Ross shrugged. “I wish it wasn’t so, but you can’t fight reality.”

“‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light,’” she quoted Dylan Thomas.

“Gotta leave the battle up to you, kid,” he said. “This old dinosaur is ready for retirement. But if you want to keep your job, you’ve gotta start writing snappy and sensational copy. Greer is your competition now. Not other print reporters.”