My boss’s name was Ron. He was short with a clenched jaw and shoulders so stiff that they came up to his ears. Ron would spend his day walking up and down the rows of desks, screaming horrific obscenities at the writers to bring the best out in them.
I was tapping away at my keyboard when I felt Ron’s ominous presence approach me from behind.
“Colane!” he screamed, his hands squeezed into tight fists. “Where’s that story about Mila Kunis’s beach body? I assigned it to you over a half-hour ago!”
“Sorry,” I said. “I was just fact-checking something. I know that Kunis dated Macaulay Culkin, but I wasn’t sure if she actually married him. I think Ashton Kutcher is her first husband, but I just wanted to be sure before I published this thing.”
Ron’s eyes bulged like a choked frog. “Who the hell cares? While you’re busy fact-checking, our competition has sent out 17 Kunis tweets in the past 45 minutes.”
“Yeah,” I said, “but our competition just spews a bunch of poorly written crap that may or may not be factual. I thought we were striving for accuracy?”
“We’re striving to be first, dipstick!” Ron reached over my shoulder and pressed the “publish” button. “There — now it’s live. Now get to work on your next assignment!”
A half hour later, Ron approached my desk again.
“Colane!” he screamed, slamming his fist into the side of my cubicle and knocking down my Far Side calendar. “Where’s the story about Jim Gaffigan’s new standup special? Why aren’t you writing?”
“Sorry,” I said. “I was just thumbing through the Associated Press Stylebook to see whether ‘website’ is one or two words. It used to be two words back in the day, but I think they changed it to one.”
Ron’s neck turned an alarming shade of crimson, and a couple of veins bulged. “Who gives a crap whether it’s one or two words? Just publish the damn story!”
“Well,” I said, “I was always taught–”
Ron reached over my shoulder and pressed the “publish” button. “There! Now it’s live. And ‘website’ is two words.”
“Actually,” I said, pointing at the stylebook, “it says here that it’s been changed to one.”
Ron grabbed the stylebook and flung it at the far wall, hitting a junior copywriter in the head.
A half hour later, I could feel Ron’s thundering footsteps as he marched toward me. I was leaning way back in my seat with my hands clasped behind my head, staring at the screen.
“Colane!” he screamed. “Where’s the article about Ryan Adams’s new solo album? Why aren’t you writing?”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m just trying to think of a good ending. I’ve got almost 500 words, but I’m not sure how to tie it all together.”
Ron’s biceps flexed so hard that they tore through his dress shirt. “Who cares about the ending, you stupid dipstick! Nobody reads that far! All that matters is the first paragraph.”
“Well,” I said, “I’ve never published a story without–”
Ron reached over my shoulder and pressed the “publish” button. “There! Now it’s live!”
“You’ve really got to stop doing that,” I said. “You cut off my story in mid-sentence. It looks half-assed!”
“That’s what I want!” Ron screamed. “We need more copy. It doesn’t have to be well-written, well-researched or even readable. We just need copy!”
I frowned. “But what happened to quality? If you’re going to do something, shouldn’t you do it well?”
“This is the era of social media, Colane!” Ron screamed. “People are scrolling on their phones at the speed of light. While you’re busy trying to do things well, the public is scrolling past our content and reading the competition. We want quantity — not quality!”
“Oh.” I sat forward. “I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, what happened to good, old-fashioned