Bits O' Bull No. 541!
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 99 17:46:27 -0800
Subject: Bits O' Bull No. 541!
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Excerpted-from: BONG Bull No. 541!
THE BURNED-OUT NEWSPAPERCREATURES GUILD'S NEWSLETTER
Copyright (c) 1999 by BONG. All rights reserved.
To subscribe: Send a blank e-mail to email@example.com.
For Nov. 4, 1999. Way-ta-go, Los Angeles Times! On behalf of every
reporter ever rousted from the VIP buffet by a stadium rent-a-cop,
congratulations for buying into the sports arena just enough to cloud
the entitlements, trumpets the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild,
and this is BONG Bull No. 541!
HICKLING'S TICKLER. Continuing the weeklong tradition of raptly studying
the reminiscences of Lee Hickling <firstname.lastname@example.org> of Cobb Island, Md.,
this week the thrilling subject is expense accounts. Thus spake Hickling:
"They're not all cheapskates. Or anyway, they didn't all use to be. Maybe
I was lucky in the places where I worked, but once upon a time there were
papers where we oxen were not muzzled while we were out treading the grain.
My first newspaper job was at The Evening and Sunday Press of Binghamton,
N.Y. My first expense account was filed after Leo Fahey, a photographer,
and I were sent to cover a grand jury session. Our mission was to sit in
the corridor outside and try to get one of the lawyers to say something,
which of course they're not supposed to do, and take pictures of people
coming and going, which is OK.
"My job was to ID the victims of Leo's flashgun for the cutlines. While
everybody else was having dinner that evening, Leo and I went out for a
sandwich. He had a hamburger and a beer, I had a club sandwich and a
Manhattan. I picked up the check. This was a while back, so the total was
about five dollars, including the tip.
"The managing editor, the late and truly great Erwin C. Cronk, came out
to my desk the next morning with my expense account held between thumb and
forefinger, well away from his body. He dropped it on my desk and said, "Is
this what you spent on dinner for two people?"
"'Well,' I said, 'yes'
"He looked at me, his eyebrows raised. "What I meant was, is this ALL
you spent? On two dinners?"
"I got the idea. I was making him and everyone else look bad by spending
"'Maybe I overlooked something,' I said. 'Let me have it back.' My
revised expense statement, for $11.95, whistled right through, and I split
it with Leo.
"I had learned my lesson. Don't cheapen the beat.
"At the Gannett News Service Washington bureau, a few years later, I was
covering one of the manned space shots, I think the Skylab mission that had
a problem unfolding one of its solar panel wings. After that was cured with
a space walk and a pair of very mundane bolt cutters, some celebration
seemed in order, so I invited a nice NASA PR lady and one of the other
reporters to go to the Houston clone of Brennan's for one of their Lucullan
Sunday brunches. Sazeracs. Eggs hussard. Bonne bouche Parisienne. A bottle
of Veuve Cliquot and so on. About $115 worth of breakfast.
"Jack Germond, then the assistant GNS bureau chief and the lead political
writer, was delighted. Jack, a great reporter and a prince among men, is a
world class trencherman and regards the United States as one huge
smorgasbord. His own expense accounts used to verge on the legendary, and
he liked to see the rest of the bureau staff follow his example.
"One of the other correspondents, a frugal New Englander, liked to eat
in greasy spoons. He would put in for $2, $3, or at most $5 a meal. Jack
never succeeded in breaking him of the practice.
"When I had to travel to a city I didn't know, I always consulted him on
the restaurants to go to. Once, though, I was sent to Salt Lake City. When
I asked him where to eat, he looked at me sadly, and said, 'Don't eat in
Salt Lake City.'"
WHADDYACALLITS. Taking a break from professing journalism, John McClelland
<JMcClell@roosevelt.edu> queried, "In the 80s, your neighbors at the
Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch noticed an interesting trend in business-page
photos. These often showed someone looking or being seen through a circular
industrial product -- tire, acceleratron, bottom of a wine glass, Hula-Hoop.
Sometimes there was a production line view through a circular, square or
triangular object or window. If they had a snazzy name for these, I don't
recall it. Does one of your readers?"
Don't know about the readers, John, but Ed Glick on the next desk calls
them "fishbowl shots." It's one of those wonderfully graphic terms that
newspeople use, such as a row of side-by-side headlines called "tombstones"
and the space for news called "the news hole."
From time to time journalism historians wonder how such terms were
invented. The working pro replies, "They're obvious." But the academics
always want to see footnotes.
Once we photographed, through a window opening in a roofless brick house,
a fireman hosing down smoldering ruins inside. We called that a "window
shot." (Scottsdale, Ariz., Daily Progress, March 11, 1971, p. 1.) There, a
footnote, the only one to appear in BONG Bull, ever.
THE GAFFE REGIMENT. Ray Barrington <email@example.com> of the Green Bay
(Wis.) News-Chronicle and others offered sources of the "(dignitary's name
here) pen is a sword" spacing error. "Of course papers I HAVE worked on have
done things even worse," Barrington averred, "They include: The black box
where the pic of the new minority center president was supposed to go; the
story on Ducks Unlimited that included a copy editor's comment about what
ducks leave behind, in words used only on CBS medical shows these days...."
-- Lynne Sherwin, Akron Beacon Journal <Meleg@aol.com> admitted, "At the
Daily Herald in Wausau, Wis., we had a scrapbook where we kept mug shots
that the printers peeled off the flats every day and saved for future use.
During the Gulf War, we ran a very important foreign policy story that
extensively quoted James Baker, and an enterprising printer fetched a mug
from the book. Imagine our surprise when we looked at the first edition and
discovered that, apparently, disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker was
directing the war against Saddam."
-- Marc Bona of the (Gary, Ind.) Post-Tribune <MBONA30@aol.com> declared,
"'Montana still believes he can make one more' was the hed in an unnamed
paper. The copy editor was in a rush, or the writer didn't think much of
himself. The byline? Shit for Brains/Associated Press.
"Then there is the juxtaposition problem with that old non-modular
format. The Des Moines Register, blow hed from '91: 'Soviet Union declared
Dead' next to overline about unrelated subject: 'He decided to suffocate
himself by putting a plastic bag over his head.'
"From an unnamed Texas paper. Hed: "They're still dancing at Carl's
Corner" with a foto of four guys in a parade spelling out F-U- C-K.
Apperently the fotog couldn't see through his lens. And by the way, there
is no apostrophe in Carls on the sign by the side of the road.
© 1999 Peter Langston