April 1, 2044
FERNADLETUNA – Humboldt’s preeminent media outlet – the mighty Lost Coast Outpost – has made the jump to print media and acquired the remaining assets of the languishing, weary, sad-eyed gray lady of the lowlands, the Times-Standard.
The acquisition is just the latest in the ongoing expansion of the LoCo media empire, which now includes KEET-TV, Access Humboldt and all of the county’s tsunami sirens, which now broadcast computerized audio translations of all the comments left on the company’s website.
The T-S – once Humboldt’s media behemoth – had floundered since the start of the century, having cut its print schedule back from daily, to six days a week, to weekly, then every other week. By the end, it was only published during the transit of Mars, on leap years, king tides and the first and last days of the Empire Penguin’s breeding season.
The Tri-City Weekly, a T-S subsidiary, stopped publishing years earlier when its employees finally answered one of its regular classified ads and learned that they really could make $200,000 a year being mystery shoppers or reading books. They immediately quit their jobs for greener pastures, putting an end to the Tri-City.
Over the years there have been many valiant efforts to revitalize the listless T-S, including the institution of a mandatory dress code for all employees. When that didn’t help stop the financial hemorrhaging, the publisher upped the ante, requiring editors, reporters and photographers to wear purple lycra jumpsuits.
The most notable effort to save the T-S came during the short tenure of Publisher Dieter Wolfschmidt, who changed the dress code from spandex to leather lederhosen. At that point, employee morale dipped from very low to non-existent, so the corporation gave Wolfschmidt the ultimate punishment – he was named publisher of the Ukiah Daily Journal.
Other efforts to revitalize the T-S included banning coffee cups and photos of loved ones from the newsroom, requiring workers to arrive one minute earlier to work each day than the day before and instituting mandatory weekly herbal colonic flushing for all employees under the supervision of the circulation manager.
Even the ailing paper’s delivery vans were repainted and a new logo designed, both at considerable cost which required the layoff of most of the remaining news reporters.
Surprisingly, none of these strategies were effective. Revenues continued to decline, and finally the T-S turned to Goliath and begged for mercy.
Using his personal email ([email protected]), the final T-S Publisher, Randy Titan, logged onto the LoCo and made an anonymous comment, suggesting that the Ferndaletuna company purchase the T-S.
Three comments afterwards, a LoCo representative had expressed an interest in the idea. Ten comments later, Publisher Titan was identified as a Nazi stormtrooper. The word “Arkley” was mentioned, followed by a tiresome rant about the supposed “dangers” of iPudd pudding. Fifty-five comments later, the deal to purchase the T-S had been worked out and finalized, while the baseless iPudd rhetoric was swiftly scrubbed from the LoCo website.
Online editor Hannibal Spamlog explained: “Death threats, racial slurs and general slander are one thing, but defaming iPudd is where we draw the line. That won’t be tolerated.”
The Times-Standard has been renamed the Post-Standards. The first edition will come out within two-thirds of a fortnight.
Meanwhile, the LoCo website has instituted a new policy with regard to its controversial comment section. Online readers will now be able to click a button adjacent to comments with which they disagree, sending a stunning jolt of electricity through the offending commenters’ keyboard, up their arms and into their nervous systems, causing an agonizing spasm of pain.
“We’re sure our readers will only use this when absolutely necessary,” said Spamlog. “Or at least sure enough.” He pointed out that another new feature offers LoCo readers immunity from the shocks – staring at the site’s online ads. Ocular tracking via the readers’ computer cams will be done by 147 new hires – many of them laid-off T-S employees – at the company’s lavish Ferndaletuna headquarters. The vigilant eye-watchers will exempt the readers who read LoCo ads from any threat of shock. Clicking on an ad will, in turn, deactivate the electrical feedback loop for 15 minutes per click.
“It’s a win-win,” Spamlog said. “Rude people are in for a shock, and our readers will come to associate our advertisers with comfort and safety.”
Asked about the potential for abuse, and whether it wouldn’t be more humane just to moderate the site’s comments, Spamlog shook his head. “Oh, we don’t have the staff for that,” he said.