Fun_People Archive
28 Mar
Bits of Bull No. 366! - 3/28/96

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 96 18:24:54 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: Bits of Bull No. 366! - 3/28/96

Excerpted-from: BONG Bull No. 366!
  Copyright (c) 1996 by BONG.  All rights reserved.

To subscribe:  Email to LISTSERV@NETCOM.COM.  In the text say
COPY!  Mitch Wagner (, senior 

editor at Computerworld magazine, asks:
     "It would really, really be helpful if I knew what the heck a 

copyboy was and what they did. I mean, I know that they were 

putatively boys who were kept on staff to run copy back and forth, 

and that many of them were newspapermen-in-training, and that they 

were also called on to do other goferish jobs, such as sobering up 

reporters after a binge. But beyond that... where did they come 

from? What did they do while not copyboying? And when did there 

stop being copyboys? Were there any copygirls?
     "And was the Chief Copyboy ever a copyboy, actually, or is 

this entirely an honorific?"
     The Chief Copyboy replies:  Frank Ducceschi, major player at 

the Port Angeles (Wash.) News and I are the only guys I know 

personally who really were copyboys, both of us at the (Phoenix) 

Arizona Journal, which went bust c. 1965.  We were students at
Arizona State and the pay was $1 an hour, or $31.05 take-home for 

40 hours.
     Copyboys did whatever an editor said.  Carry copy.  Get 

coffee.  Run office pools.  Type boring agate.  Fill gluepots.  

Cut copy paper from press scrap, change ribbons and paper on tty 

machines, also blades in wirephoto machines, which made pix
on filmy tissue-like wirephoto paper that if someone flicked an 

ash into a wastebasket full of, got a dandy fire in about a 

minute, enough time to be far away.  Blasting a blazing 

wastebasket with an extinguisher exploded flaming bits all over 

the newsroom, which always lightened things up. 

    There were copygirls at some papers but modern sensitivities 

made the term untenable, and newspapers found out about unpaid 

internships which all but did in the title.  When they existed, 

copyboys lived for the chance to do a small story, a phone intvu  

or some handout rewrites, maybe move up to cub reporter.  At the 

thinly staffed Journal this came easier than most; the city editor 

was a lush and often a no-show. Either way, many nights that left 

me as city editor. I never had the guts to pad my resume with the 

brevet promotion, a sign in itself that I lack executive mien.
     One of the two copy editors, a male couple ex of the N.Y. 

Daily News, used to call me "Eddie" all the time.  He said he 

didn't give a damn what my name was, I looked like an Eddie.
MISSISSIPPI BURNING.  Mississippi state Rep. Tommy Horne, I-
Meridian, has sponsored a bill disallowing any newspaper in that 

state from publishing unsigned editorials if it refuses to publish 

unsigned letters to the editor.  The Hon. Mr. Horne's constituents 

must have tired of writing their opinions on unguarded fences and 

alley walls.
BIG STUFF FIRST.  As Frank Dobisky ( 

tells it, his friend the late Mike Knapp was state editor at the 

Sandusky (Ohio) Register, requiring supervision of a string of 

country correspondents.  One, a guy named Harry, who was in his 

80s, was a particularly tough customer and Mike was told not to 

worry about him. But being young and idealistic, Mike was
determined to turn Harry into a first-rate correspondent and spent 

time teaching him the trade, watching Harry's improvement with 


     One day, on deadline, Harry called Mike, yelling into the 

phone, "Hey, Knapp, I've got six dead chickens out here." 

     Mike, frantic and trying to get the paper out, yelled back, 

"Harry, I'm on deadline -- why are you bothering me with dead 

chickens?" But being a good newspaperman, he asked, "How'd they 

     "Drowned?" Mike asked.
     "Yeah, it was all that water."
     "What water, Harry?"
     "Well, fire destroyed the grist mill, and the dam broke and 

flooded the area."
     Knapp dropped everything, pulled together a great story on 

deadline and after he got it into the paper, he asked Harry, 

"Geez, Harry, great story, but the why the hell call to tell me 

you got six dead chickens?" 

     "Well, Knapp," Harry said, "you told me always to give you 

the fatals first."

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