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Feeding the Goat

January 31, 2011

A play about journalism

The play takes play just across from Parliament Hill with its Peace Tower.



It is 1976. The separatist Parti Quebecois has just handily won the Quebec election and Rene Levesque will soon be premier. The setting is a fictitious newsroom in Ottawa. The main action revolves around an impending strike at the news service. The newsroom is a hotbed of anger, resentment, ego clashes and power struggles. This cauldron of discontent influences news judgment as the new items flicker on to editors’ screens across the country. The action is further intensified by one critical news story:  the Parti Quebecois is about to be elected for the first time. Newsrooms of English Canada are fighting a losing battle to maintain objectivity. The news service newsroom in the national capital is abuzz with news (read propaganda) about the PQ. The shared English media editorial position is that Quebec separating from Canada will destroy the country. The action centres around the strike but the workplace situation corresponds with the situation developing around the PQ election.  On the eve of the election, the strike hits.     

Act II

The setting is a picket line on the street outside the newsroom under the shadow of Parliament Hill. The action unfolds outside the news service building. Three of the five newsroom workers (Helen, Mary and Howie) are on the picket line.  They discuss their situation in terms of being separated from the workplace. Helen leads the strikers; she is struggling to break out, become independent and yet wants the security of a job. Mary is with them but wavering in her resolve; she fears reprisals will ruin her career.  Howie’s courage blooms; he sees the strike as his last chance to be whole again and helps Mary to see the importance of maintaining her self-respect and dignity. They are visited by the other two workers – scabs – who intend to cross the line.  One (Sally) is convinced not to cross.  The other (Mac) crosses with promises of bitter recriminations. There is a surprise visit from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.


This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended to represent those individuals.


This play is dedicated to those who see journalism as the process of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

The characters

Robert (Mac) Mackenzie – Copy chief, main clearing desk for all news stories.

Helen True – Slot man, rewrite desk, the hot seat of the newsroom.

Mary Stirling – Assistant pig editor, finance desk, files stock market changes.

Howie Downing – Sub-editor, foreign desk.

Sally Williams – Copy boy, gopher running wire copy from desk to desk.

Sample scene

Two men sit in front of video display terminals at a large horseshoe-shaped desk to right centrestage; Mac centre, Howie at right.  Two women are similarly seated at left centrestage; Helen centre, Mary at left working the chaotic, paper-ridden pig editor’s desk.  Newsroom sounds: clacking terminals, teletypes, bells, big black pencils scratching across newsprint.  The intent is to suggest a workplace that is more industrial than intellectual in nature.


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