Bits o' BONG Bull No. 452!
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 97 01:40:21 -0800
Subject: Bits o' BONG Bull No. 452!
Excerpted-from: BONG Bull No. 452!
THE BURNED-OUT NEWSPAPERCREATURES GUILD'S NEWSLETTER
Copyright (c) 1997 by BONG. All rights reserved.
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GIVE US THIS DAYFATHER. On the question of what James Joyce meant when he
described the "dayfather" at a Dublin newspaper, BONG uncovered several
former students who also didn't finish 'Ulysses," plus the revelation:
The unions in the British printing industry started in chapels and other
church property, and adapted churchly nomenclature. Thus the chapel is the
local union, and the father or mother of the chapel is the president. When
a local has day and night shifts, there is of course the dayfather and the
nightfather (or mother). Peter H. Salus of Boston notes that Joyce refers
to the dayfather as "old Monks," suggesting both seniority and position.
William Tudor, new tech honcho at the Wilmington (Del.) News- Journal,
notes that the shift father could be a most important person, because
British newspapers of the last century often hired casual labor for a shift.
Thus the dayfather could decide who got work and who didn't.
Lee Anthony of our Australia chapel confirms the above and admits he's
among those who haven't finished 'Ulysses' despite having collected the
diploma some time ago.
Lee Anthony: <email@example.com>
ABOUT THAT HIRING. It's a system fast becoming archaic, but at one time
newspaper composing rooms had so much work that they hired "tramp" or
traveler printers. They were members of the union but not of the local
chapel. Many of them quite literally traveled all the time, a lifestyle
choice made possible by their union cards.
Because of contracts that required all makeup to be done by union
members, travelers usually found some "bogus" work to be done -- ads that
were provided in mat form by advertisers and may already have run in the
paper, but which still had to be set up by a union member. Sometimes the
bogus pile was years deep.
But as new contracts were negotiated and new technology arrived,
publishers bought back the lifetime-guaranteed printers' jobs and bogus
became less a factor in staffing. What few union printers remain have
become adept at computers and pasteup, and a few chapels still maintain
"sub" lists of casual printers available for one or two shifts' part-time
When makeup work piles up, publishers can offer overtime to the printers
on hand. "They call me two or three times a week offering an hour or two,"
said an old hand at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "The guys can take it or
turn it down. If they all turn it down, then the company calls me back and
offers a sixth day." Under the logic that a whole day of OT for one is
better than two hours' work (and life disruption) for four or five, that's
when the printer agrees. One of the subs can be called in too, but that
makes the sub liable for a month's dues so most subs agree to work only when
there are several days' worth.
It's tempting to scoff at union rules that made life so complicated for
publishers. But the rules came about through negotiation, and at some point
every publisher realized it was more cost effective to guarantee printers'
jobs than to pay higher hourly wages or grant more holidays. Few publishers
of small non-union shops lived as lavishly as those who owned unionized
papers and chains.
EDITORS WHO COUNTED. Al Jacoby, Copley's flamekeeper in San Diego, Calif.,
recommends several books by Harry Evans about the British newspaper
management system, written in the 70s when he was editor of the Sunday Times
"On another subject, have you ever examined how copyreaders, before
computers took away all the skill of the thing, counted heads?" Jacoby
asked. Most went a half count for lower-case Is and Fs and most
punctuation, one full for most lower-case and capital Is, 1.5 for capitals
except two for Ms and Ws. Editors came to know that "Nixon" counted 5,
"Ike" was 3, "JFK" and "LBJ" were 4.5 and so forth.
The Chief Copyboy recalls some stretches at the late and largely
execrable San Antonio Light, which used "ack-ack" (6.5) for "machine gun"
(10.5) and "hijack" (5) for "holdup" (5.5). Thus a reader might think a
hood was thoroughly done in by rivals cruising by with an anti-aircraft gun
in the back seat, or a pawnshop was not merely robbed at gunpoint but
carried away on a truck. As a Light editor explained to a curious rookie,
"They been doing it that way for 50 years, they ain't gonna change now."
Jacoby continues, "I knew guys who used their knuckles to count out
heads. Others would tap out the count with their fingers. The late Tom
Keevil, who was one of the best and most competitive smaller-city editor
around in the 50s and 60s (and a graduate of the (.... oh,well, you know),
had a set set of headlines in his mind as models. Thus, the 142 Erbar
condensed model line was something like "Mayor Says." Keevil could write a
headline in his mind and compare it to the model line and know if it would
Nice work at getting the University of Missouri mentioned again, Al.
Once per edition, that's all.
"Keevil was the one who taught me never to freeze on the banner head
with a short count. A 120-point all-caps banner counted about the same is
a (one column) line of 24 point type, he pointed out. And hell, anyone can
write a 24-point line."
"Back in the late 40s, in summers between classes at the . . . (ah
ha!), I worked for an editor named Todd Watkins in a little High Sierra town
here in California. Todd, ever busy, wrote all his headlines on the
typewriter. He never had a long head. But all he wrote was 1-18s with three
lines. They were always very short. Made for some very dull pages."
Jacoby retells the story of the New York Times, never one to say "Ike"
in a headline. But "EISENHOWER SAYS" was a half-count too long for a single
column, even in that tightly condensed stuff they used. So the editors at
the Gray Lady in 1952 sent off to Linotype's foundry to have a custom brass
matrix made, half a count shorter, and whenever "EISENHOWER SAYS" was
appropriate the operator used it. It got them through two administrations.
And not to be catty about later Republicans, that's longer than they needed
© 1997 Peter Langston