In the cutthroat world of television journalism, seasoned reporter Charlotte McNally knows that she'd better pull out all the stops or kiss her job goodbye. But it's her life that might be on the line when she learns that an innocent-looking e-mail offer resulted in murder, mayhem and a multimillion-dollar fraud ring.
All too soon her investigation leads her straight to Josh Gelston, who is a little too helpful and a lot too handsome. Charlie might have a nose for news, but men are a whole other matter. Now she has to decide whether she can trust Josh...before she ends up as the next lead story.
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Between the hot flashes, the hangover and all the spam on my computer, there's no way I'll get anything done before eight o'clock this morning. I came in early to get ahead, and already I'm behind.
I take a restorative sip of my murky-but-effective vending machine coffee, and start my one-finger delete. Away go the online offers for cheap vacations, low refinancing rates and medicine from Canada. Adios to international driver's licenses and work-at-home money-making schemes.
At least I'm not the only one here. Downstairs in the newsroom, overcaffeinated producers working the graveyard shift click intently through the wires, scanning their computers to find stories for the noon newscast. The sleek new anchorwoman, Ellen Cavenagh, doesn't have to be in her chair for the local news update until 8:24, so the "new face of Channel 3," as the promos brand her, is probably in her dressing room perfecting the shimmer level of her lip gloss.
Ellen's essentially a supermodel with reading skills, and I applaud anyone who can come out so cover girl so early in the morning. But as the station's investigative reporter, I spend most of my time tracking down sources and digging through documents. As a result, I don't always have to look TV-acceptable.
Good thing. At forty-six, it's possible my "hot flashes" owe more to the station's eccentric heating system than to a sudden dive in hormones. But facing reality, facing the camera takes a lot more time than it did twenty years ago. And considerably more makeup. Still, as long as they're not calling me "the old face of Channel 3," I figure I'm in the clear.
Today I'm planning total off-the-air mode. My usually high-maintenance hair is twisted up with a pencil and I'm on a hell-or-high-water mission--come up with a blockbuster story so Channel 3 will win the November ratings contest and I can keep my job.
I was initiated into ratings worship my first day at the station. Back then I was very eighties in my high-necked blouse and cameo brooch. Big eyebrows. Big shoulders. Big dreams.
"Here's a course they don't teach you in J-school," my news director said, gesturing me into his office. "Bottom Line 101: TV News Is Not All About Journalism--It's All About Money." Then he clicked open a computer spreadsheet, revealing a screen filled with tiny numbers.
"These are 'the overnights,'" he intoned.
I remember thinking: Who's staying overnight? Luckily, he continued before I could actually ask such a naively newbie question.
"The overnight numbers arrive electronically every morning," he went on. "They show us how many viewers watched each newscast the day before. It's a contest. Whichever TV station gets the highest viewership ratings gets to charge the highest rates to advertisers."
He nodded, narrowing his eyes, and pointed to me.
"You win--especially the all-important November ratings--and you're in the money," he pronounced. "You lose, you're a goner."
As it turned out, he's the one who's gone, but I'm still front-lining in the ratings wars. And that's why every fall for the past twenty or so years, I've had to dig up a big story, a heavy hitter, one that'll get a ratings home run. Score, and my job is safe for another year. Strike out, and I could be shipped away from Boston and sent to cover the news in some culture-forsaken, small-market backwater. So far, I haven't had to call my agent or a moving company.
But now, because the arrival of my new boss has unfortunately coincided with the arrival of my contract expiration date, I've got to come up with a bigger story than ever.
If I don't, news director Kevin O'Bannon may be...
By: Hank Phillippi Ryan