Easy on the Eyes(8)

By: Jane Porter


“Tia?” Glenn prompts. “I like the idea. What about you?”

I try to remember what Mark was talking about before Glenn’s question, before I zoned out. What was it?

The lesbian prison wedding scandal. Right.

“Do we really need to do this story?” I ask, keeping my tone friendly because I don’t want to step on Mark’s toes, and Mark is very tight with Shelby. But really, lesbian prison wedding scandal? “I can’t help but think it’s too National Enquirer for us. We are news— ”

“Human interest news,” Mark jumps in, protective of his story. “And this is colorful. Six guards have been disciplined, and two of those might lose their jobs. And then there are the brides— they’ve been separated, punished, because prisoners are forbidden to have sexual relations with each other.”

It’s all I can do to not shudder. “I think it’s beneath us,” I try again. “It turns my stomach.”

“It’s a good story,” Mark says defensively, “and with the right tease we’d get a huge audience.”

“I love it,” Shelby interrupts. “Can I do it?”

I don’t even try to hide my shock. “Are you serious, Shelby?”

“Why not?” She shrugs. “It’s heartwarming.”

“It’s not heartwarming. It’s bizarre, and we’d only be running it for shock value. If we want real human interest stories, I have plenty I’d like to do— ”

“Like one of your feel-good stories that touch the heart?” Mark asks sarcastically, getting a laugh from everyone.

“Which our viewers need a lot more than sensationalistic pieces like lesbian weddings and prison scandals.” I check my tone, soften my voice. “How will this benefit anyone? Will our viewers feel more empowered? Happier? More at peace?”

“We’re not a yoga center,” Mark says, tapping his pen impatiently. “And if viewers want to be uplifted, enlightened, or empowered, they can head to The Seven Hundred Club.”

“It’s all about ratings,” Shelby adds as though I’m an intern and she’s here to show me the ropes.

I smile, although on the inside I’m anything but sunny. There is no way in hell I will share the anchor position with this woman. I turn to Glenn. “I don’t want to do this story on my show.”

“I already said I’ll do it.” Shelby’s giving me the same smile I just gave her. The gloves are off. She’s not my protégée anymore. She’s my competition and she’s gunning for my job.

“Thanks, Shelby, but as you know, the weekend show isn’t in trouble,” Mark replies. “We’re all here trying to figure out how to save Tiana’s ass.”

The conference room falls silent. Everyone looks at Mark and then Shelby and then Glenn. But not one person looks at me.

The silence stretches, endless. Jeff coughs. Shelby studies her nails. Harper shuffles paperwork. And I stare at Mark until he finally turns to meet my gaze.

“What was that?” I ask quietly.

He rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on, Tiana. Your numbers have been crap all year and you know it— ”

“Glenn, may I have a word with you?” I say, interrupting Mark and looking at him hard. “Everyone, can you give us five minutes?”

Glenn doesn’t speak, but everyone’s on their feet and heading for the door. I may have lackluster ratings, but I still have clout. I wait for everyone to file out.

“Glenn, what’s going on?” I demand as the door closes. “What is Shelby doing here?”

“The execs thought it’d be a good idea to have her sit in, get familiar with the weekday format.”

“Why?”

“We had this conversation last night.”

“Yes, and last night you said nothing had been decided, which made me believe an offer hadn’t yet been made.”

“Not officially, no.”

My stomach’s in knots again. This is bad, and it’s getting worse. “So what’s the unofficial word?”

Glenn holds my gaze. We have this odd love-hate relationship, and it’s been this way for the past six years. He’s good at what he does. “You can’t carry the show anymore.”

“So that’s it? I’m toast?”

“You’re not toast.”

“I am if you haven’t even given me a chance to address the problems and you’ve turned control over to someone else— ”

“We need input.”

“Great, then come to me. Talk to me. Ask me. Instead you’ve spent months telling me everything’s fine, when nothing’s fine. You insisted it was temporary, a blip, and even though I asked if we could sit down and brainstorm some ideas, you said no, not to worry.” I swallow hard. “But I should have worried.” I realize now how irresponsible it was not to worry.

Why did I stop being proactive with my career?

Why did I think I was secure?

Glenn leans back in his chair. “You don’t like the party piece, or the prison wedding scandal. You don’t like the stories that the viewers do.”