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Instant journalism


The Lizard of Fun sits perched on my suitcase, its face screwed up into a scowl like some living gargoyle. It’s muttering incomprehensibly as it taps away furiously at my laptop computer.

"I’m imitating a journalist. Since you’re going on vacation, and obviously won’t be fully prepared for any kind of rest and relaxation until about an hour before you’re supposed to come home, I figured I’d help you out," it explains when I threaten to pack it into the suitcase. "Just to prove what a great pal I am, I’ve made up the news for you. All you need to do is plug in the details as they become available."

"Oh yeah?" I say distractedly, wondering if I’ve packed the extra waffle iron and my off-road bikini. "News?"

"I call it The Lizard’s One-Size-Fits-All Newspaper," it says, holding up the laptop. "Check it out."

Top story

Headline: Weird weather breaks all records

Dateline: (Detroit, or Alaska, or Florida, depending)

Copy: The weather was the hot topic of conversation yesterday, when a) tornadoes; b) flash floods; c) a record-breaking heat wave; d) snow in August broke out in parts of the country.

Residents rushed to a) storm cellars; b) shovel 3 feet of snow; c) buy air-conditioners; d) get their video cameras to film footage to sell to TV news programs.

Hardest hit by the storm/water/heat were residents of trailer parks/lakefront properties/low-income housing, who had to be evacuated/thrown life preservers/refrigerated for up to six hours.

Meteorologists, claiming that this weather event breaks all previously kept records, blame it on a) El Niño; b) La Niña; c) global warming; d) The Media. The last record-breaking event of this type happened in a) the Ice Age; b) August 1789; c) July this year.

– 30 –

"Or how about this?"

Headline: Shooting rampage in _______ leaves ____ dead, ____ wounded

Dateline: (Fill in the blank)

Copy: A disgruntled a) postal worker; b) high school student; c) day trader; d) social misfit arrived at a) his former place of employment; b) his former girlfriend’s place of employment; c) a high school; d) a highly populated grocery store/community center/shopping mall and opened fire with a) a semiautomatic assault rifle; b) an unregistered set of handguns; c) enough artillery to outfit an entire platoon; d) a Super Soaker.

Police have confirmed that (insert number) people were killed and (insert number) were wounded in the attack, before the gunman a) turned the weapon on himself; b) led officers in a high-speed chase before turning the weapon on himself; c) had a lengthy standoff with police before turning the gun on himself; d) escaped, and is believed to be at large or may have turned the gun on himself; e) surrendered to police after threatening to turn the gun on himself.

Witnesses at the scene said they a) hid in closets or behind locked doors; b) ducked and covered; c) ran like hell; d) got their video cameras and filmed footage to sell to TV news programs.

Authorities in (applicable city name here) were a) holding the suspect on $1 million bond; b) still searching for the suspect; c) wiping up the bloody aftermath; d) calling for stronger weapons restrictions; e) wondering who to blame.

(Insert name here), a friend of the gunman, said:

a) "He’d been feeling under pressure lately."

b) "He was always such a nice guy. I’d never think he would do something like this."

c) "He’d been planning this for years. I didn’t take him seriously."

d) "I’m just glad he didn’t decide to do this
when I was at work/school/the mall."

Government officials are calling for a nationwide registry of

a) all guns

b) office workers/postal workers/high school students

c) all psychiatrists who specialize in sound bites about mass killings.

Generic quotes to plug in, depending on situation:

Concerned politician: "I keep telling my political colleagues this is an important issue, but they keep waffling. This is an important issue, isn’t it?"

Gun-rights supporter: "Shooting people in offices is like shooting lions in a zoo. It’s just not sporting."

Anti-gun activist: "Told ya so. Told ya so."

– 30 –

"But what if there aren’t any weird weather events or shooting rampages in time for the next issue of the paper?" I ask.

The Lizard shrugs. "Wanna hear my lizard’s-eye view exposé of the alligator shoe industry?"