Cover image for This just in-- : a novel
Title:
This just in-- : a novel
Author:
Joe, Yolanda.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First Ballantine Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine/One World, 2001.

©2000
Physical Description:
281 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780345446466
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Reads like breaking news: fast-paced, attention-grabbing, dramatic' - Black Issues Book Review At WKBA, five women are fighting to survive in the old-boys network, while forced to tackle the biggest story of all: their own lives. A delicious peak at what the TV viewer doesn't see which is at once moving and hilarious, it resonates with Yolanda Joe's heartfelt message about women, life and love. Selected by the Literary Guild and the Black Expressions Book Club.'


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gender issues and racial politics inflect a Chicago TV newsroom in Joe's (Bebe's By Golly Wow) fast-paced but didactic novel, a derivative Broadcast News or Murphy Brown with African-American protagonists. Poor morale and low ratings haunt WKBA's news division, but many of the ambitious black women who work there scramble for recognition and promotion while trying to stay true to their ethics. Fights between producers and writers, senior anchors and young hopeful reporters, studio bigwigs and technical workers, union-seeking employees and the management are all part of the multifaceted drama. Photographer Alex Harbor is tired of unending battles against racism and sexism, and writer Kenya Adams is at the end of her rope with a demanding schedule that threatens her family life. When the news director gets canned for low ratings, news manager Denise Mitzler sees an opportunity to move up the ladder, but she loses the job to a black male brought in from outside, Xavier "Glory" Helston, who wins over many with his interest in employee grievances. The feisty women try to control their destinies: Denise threatens to sue; Holly creates an emergency that allows her to anchor the news; Kenya recovers from an embarrassing gaffe at an important industry party; photographer Megan invests heavily in the stock market to finance her own company. Joe's novel is structured like a news broadcast, with chapter headings as preview "teasers," but the gimmick is awkward. Many of the characters sound alike, and with so many dramatic crises, the interchangeability of characters makes the plot stagger as if the TelePrompTer has gone awry. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Holly Reporter/Anchor All eyes were on me. I walked through the WKBA newsroom. It was a whirling hub of activity. In the large oval-shaped space with rectangular metal desks, my new coworkers sat up, stopped what they were doing, and openly stared. All eyes were on me. In whispers, my new colleagues debated my existence and my worth as though I weren't there. Is that the new reporter? Yes that's her. Do you think she's pretty? In a common sort of way. Think she'll make it? Who knows? Who cares? How ironic; I felt visible yet invisible. All eyes were on me. I was following my new boss's executive secretary, Vera. She's fiftyish and petite. Vera has literally grown up at this station. Recently Vera celebrated her twenty-fifth year on the job. You could do that behind the scenes in a nondecision-making position, you could stay twenty to thirty years at one television station. But it's not like that for reporters and anchors. For us, television stations have revolving doors. Broadcast news is a complicated game, it's a lot of stick and move. I was coming from a tiny but well-respected station located in Palm Springs. In news, no one really tries to stay rooted at one particular station until they get to the big time--New York, Chicago, L.A. That's what WKBA/Chicago is--the big time. And I'm determined to stick. I kept my diva face and accompanying strut going full throttle despite all the emotion churning inside of me. Who will my new friends be? Will I get off to a good start? It wasn't that I hadn't been in WKBA's newsroom before. I had, actually, for a final interview with Kal Jimper, the vice president/general manager. He's the number-one guy. I met with the news director too--Mitch Saleen. He's the number-two guy, responsible for the overall daily operations within the newsroom. Then I was briefly introduced to Garth Ingalls, the executive producer, a tall man with steel blue eyes and a whiskey voice. I met Denise Mitzler too. She's managing editor. Denise is a classy sister with a no-nonsense demeanor. But Kal Jimper and Mitch Saleen were the ones I had to win over. And I did win them over so here I am. "You'll like Chicago," Vera chatted as we walked. "There's so much to do! Blues. Jazz. Theater. Great summer festivals in Grant Park. I've lived here all my life and I love it." "You never thought about moving?" "Once," she said. "My husband is a car salesman. He thought he could do better in Dallas. At the time my twin boys were babies. But we thought since my family is here, and his family is here, it wasn't worth going to a new place where we didn't know anyone." I nodded--I was now in a strange new place where I didn't know anyone. "Plus," Vera chatted on, "I ended up getting a better job at 'KBA. At first I was in the mailroom. I got to know everyone in the building. When people heard that I was thinking about leaving, the news director gave me a job as his secretary. That convinced us to stay." "I hope I like it here as much as you do." "You will." Vera smiled pleasantly. Now we had reached the last desk on the third row. "Well, Holly, here's your spot. I sit right around the corner there," Vera pointed, "outside Mitch's door. Holler if you need help." "Thanks." "That's good advice!" someone complimented as she walked away. "Vera's number one around here!" "Rerack your tape, baby," a voice jackknifed through the air. "Hazel Morriette is the top bitch around here and don't you forget it!" I turned to look at the woman who spoke with such cutting pride. Hazel Morriette was sitting across from my work space with her right arm draped across the back of her plaid desk chair. She gnawed at me with a hungry gaze that made me both uneasy and guarded. Hazel seductively snapped her wrists as she whipped the telephone chord around and around in the air. With a sly smile, she cooed, "My dear, you are in the presence of greatness. I am Hazel Morriette, senior anchor at WKBA." Lucky me. Hazel was on vacation during my final interview at WKBA but I'd heard about her. Oh yes. I'd heard that Hazel was like radiation--the less exposure the better. Her story is a lesson in Journalism 101. Who: Hazel Morriette. What: 10 p.m. anchor. When: Since 1987. Where: WKBA Chicago. Why: Solid audience recognition and tight with network brass. Hazel has glossy black hair that flows past her shoulders. A streak of gray adorns the sides of each temple. Hazel has stunning bone structure, from her sculpted eyes to a dimple that centers in her chin. But age has forced a heavy hand when it comes to Hazel's makeup. She's camouflaging wrinkles and a splatter of age spots. Hazel had on a Donna Karan dress and Gucci shoes. Be friendly, I thought. After all, what had I done to her? So I smiled at Hazel Morriette. That's it. That's all. Then this Hazel Morriette broke on me in a rude and crude manner. Hazel said, "If you can cut it, you might make it here . . ." She said, "I'm just trying to figure out if your talent is in your head or in between your legs!" I was stunned and severely wounded. In my head I came back in my best California B-girl voice with, "My talent is in the same place as yours--minus the wrinkles and the age spots!" But in reality I didn't say anything. I was new and I had no backup here. I held my tongue. But I stared Hazel Morriette down, refusing to cower. That was just the beginning. By the end of my first week at WKBA, I learned that Hazel was nicknamed Dragon Diva and for a most appropriate reason. But there's more. By the end of my second week at WKBA I was wishing that I'd never come to Chicago at all. And stranger still, an incident shook me so badly, I literally packed my bags. Denise Managing Editor/Acting Assistant News Director TV news is not for people who bruise easily. And WKBA in Chicago will beat you up with a quickness. I have two years in at this shop. I'm careful. How else can a black woman get ahead in this business? I've been in broadcasting eighteen years. Eighteen years. Twelve cities. It's been tough. It's been an uphill climb. I've dealt with slick ropes. Few footholds. With my talent and drive I should be a vice president/general manager at a network-owned station. That's three rungs higher than I am right now! I should be there. I was on the fast track ten years ago. But it happened. The incident. The incident stalled my career but taught me two important things. One: There is no room for error when you are black and in broadcasting. And two: Be careful. The incident didn't teach me to bend or kowtow. But it taught me to be careful about the battles I fight. Careful too how I fight them. Be careful. My phone rang. I answered it. There was something going on out in the newsroom. A commotion. Static. In short . . . A fight. The person on the line was tipping me off. There's a way that managers get information about what's really going on out in the newsroom. Sources. Unidentified sources. A mole. A mole is a friend who wants to help you. Or a mole is a suck-up who wants to cash in the favor later. Our motto: Never reveal a source. Never ID a mole. The mole said, "Dragon Diva is torching the new hire." The new hire? The victim had to be Holly Johnston. The attacker had to be Hazel Morriette. Nickname: Dragon Diva. She's a bitch. Long black hair. Long gray streaks. Long hot temper. Queen Bee. Ten o'clock anchor. In every city, the late night broadcast is the show of record. The benchmark. The big stations go head to head. In Chicago, the ten o'clock show is the show of record. That's the big prize. Bragging rights. The goal is to win ratings for the ten o'clock show. Then you can win it all. Dragon Diva anchors the ten o'clock. But recently ratings are way down. She's fiercely jealous. Dragon Diva slaughters anyone who looks like competition. As soon as they cross the threshold she lets them have it. A broadcast drive-by. Should I break up the fight? Or should I let Holly slug it out? Can she slug it out? I want the sister to make it. If I break it up, how will it look to the staffers in the newsroom? That's important. The Dragon/Holly fight is big news. The word will spread. Boy, will it spread. The news will go from WKBA reporters, to writers, to secretaries, to sales reps, to mail clerks, to technicians in the garage, outside to the competing reporters and cameramen on the street, then into their newsrooms. How will it look? It will look like I broke up the fight just because Holly is black. That's favoritism. That's risky. And the big boys in New York love Dragon Diva. I'd chance her holding a grudge. She'd be out to cut me off at the knees. That's risky too. Hmmm, what should I do? Beans Photographer/Technician This is how I got into the fight, a friend in the newsroom called me over in the garage across the street. My friend said, "Beans, there's a big fight going on in the newsroom between Dragon Diva and the new reporter, can you help?" I thought, Whoa, already? So I decided to hustle over there to check it out, not because I get off on negative tension, although WKBA is famous across the country for its cutthroat atmosphere. No, I hustled over because I hate to see two women go at it and become enemies; women in TV need to stick together. Like there was a time when I was the only woman technician WKBA had, and that was back in 1981. I started out in 1979 as a scheduling secretary in the technical department but I wanted a shot. I always loved photography, and I wanted a chance. When they needed more minorities, I stepped up. The black and Hispanic men they were hiring looked at me funny, but I'm a white woman, and I'm a minority too. There were no women on the technical side, period, and I got hired. It was ugly back then, and for one reason. The good old boy network was running better than ever. Silence would have been welcomed, but instead a nasty group of men made a habit of meowing when I walked by, calling me a you-know-what. They taped sanitary napkins to my locker, and they meowed, and my male supervisor said, "Can't you take a joke?" So I ignored the pranks and discouraging remarks every chance I got; other times when it was too much, I went into the bathroom to cry. But I was staying, had to stay, because who knows when they would give another woman a chance? I was slow getting warmed up to the job because the camera was bulkier then, yeah, heavier, it was harder to hold. No one wanted women in this lion's den, but I was going to claw someone to death if I had to because like I said, I was staying. The first reporter I worked with, who is now retired in New Mexico raising horses, was a moody SOB. He told me I talked too much without taking a breath, and that I didn't know beans about what I was doing, but I told that SOB, I wasn't giving up. After a few months of that, of me practically killing myself to learn and to hustle, that SOB started requesting me for his special shoots. He started saying, "Give me Beans!" and I've been Beans ever since. That was the first word out of Hazel's mouth when she saw me striding across the newsroom in her direction. She said, with humor and authority, "Beans to the rescue!" The new reporter turned around and looked at me and I could see the anger in her eyes, not meant for me, but meant for me to see. She's a pretty girl, about five seven, but very thin, so she looks lean and long. I would say that Holly looks like a darker version of Halle Berry, but with beautiful dark auburn hair that shags just above the shoulders. Holly is a dresser, spends a lot on her clothes; she looks expensive from the top of her head to the heels of her shoes. I grabbed Hazel around the neck playfully, and joked out loud for everyone to hear, "What are you causing trouble for? Huh?" As usual, that made Hazel laugh. Hazel and I went back to her first days in the WKBA shop; back then I helped her get the lay of the land. Holly was smart enough to retreat, to just walk away quietly toward the ladies' room. Later I found her there fixing her makeup, her eyes particularly, and they were red from crying. "Good thinking," I said. "Don't try to go head to head with Hazel. She can hold a nasty grudge, but buried deep down inside of her is a decent person." "I doubt if the Titanic is buried down that deep." "I hope you don't mind, but can I give you some advice, huh, Holly?" "I could use it." "Don't ever let them see you cry in the newsroom. I'm not saying that you won't cry in this business, but don't do it out in the open." "Why?" "Because, Holly, in a big-city newsroom it's cutthroat, and you have to maintain respect. You cry in the middle of that newsroom and half the people will feel sorry for you, and the other half will feel contempt for you, and none of them will respect you." "Why did I come here?" Holly groaned, but it wasn't a give-up groan, but more like I've got an uphill battle ahead groan. "Dues, kiddo, there are heavy dues in the big-city markets, but you've got friends here already." "One," Holly said pleasantly, looking at me. "Two . . . the friend who called and asked me to help you out, but see, don't ask me who it is, they don't want you to know." Then I laughed. "It's an exclusive." After I told her that, I headed for the door, and Holly stopped me when she said, "Thanks, Beans. I appreciate it. I hope I can put this stupid fight behind me. Do you think it will get around and become a big deal?" Excerpted from This Just In by Yolanda Joe All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.