Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical BONG Bull No. 671.

For April 8, 2006. Hello, Worldwide Media Conspiracy, here's a list of people you can't push around any more: Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Ollie North, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. Oops, wait, Ollie calls himself a reporter now. Never mind Ollie. And let's hold off on Tom DeLay until Fox News decides whether to make him a reporter or just another pseudo-analyst, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 671!

CHANGE OF ADDRESS. The Chief Copyboy has left the San Antonio Express-News after five years and is in transit to Dayton, Ohio, place of BONG's founding.
The news isn't that I'm bolting from Hearst after five years; it's that I didn't quit FOR five years. In that time I earned 11 national Hearst headline prizes but also endured a copy desk management style more like playground bullying than professional newspapering, with catty sniping and backstabbing. It started with my innocent question in 2001 to another editor: "So, why do we publish so many passive-voice headlines?" Shortly the slot guy was protecting his little sandbox by spraying spit in my face and yelling fuck in my ear. Well, he can keep his tantrums on that side of the desk and in his e-mails. I came to edit, not be prom queen.
Then there was the unique thrill of being plagiarized by a slot editor for what is likely to be the only solo national headline prize she ever will win. It would've given me an even dozen, but that's not the point; the dinners weren't that good. One just expects a little more slickness. This is the crew that crowed for months that, of all the local sob stuff in the world, that New York Times' rogue stole ours. Well, getting your pocket picked doesn't make you a crime fighter. Congratulations on how you handled that, New York Times.
And then there was truly the cutest phenomenon, the fear and loathing of BONG. What you're reading is in my resume, was there when they hired me. Wouldn't keep it a secret; even church committees Google. BONG's been pretty much the same for almost 20 years, first called a column, then a newsletter, a zine, and then a blog. The Express-News recently started blogs. Most of them are full of stuff we used to write 30 on TOP of. But OK, now they blog, and somebody said hey, while we're trying to figure this out, we got a guy over here, Charley, who's been doing it for years. Then a manager said, "What, years? Generating ideas? Making deadlines? Building readership? And he can talk to us? Good Lord, he must be stopped!"
In the ensuing quiet office chat I could agree not to use company time or equipment for BONG. But Express-News management's demand that I furnish advance copy for approval was too much to stay at Hearst for. So, from now on whenever anyone Googles the phrase "prior restraint" for their civics essay, J-school thesis or White House probe, somewhere in the findings will be this paragraph.
So long, San Antonio Express-News. The only difference between you and what they publish on small distant islands is that they get sea breezes and fresher fish.

ART NEWS. Never one to waste five years, the Graphic Finery and T-shirts Committee whomped together two nice watercolors about the foregoing.
One portrays a little island featuring a tower restaurant, a paste pot with a lighted fuse, a woman stealing something, a big committee table with lots of vacant seats, a chorus line of empty farm-boy overalls, and lots of cormorants.
The other is a collage of hand-painted postcards explaining the images in the first one. The postcards came over several weeks through the U.S. Postal Service to my mailbox in the Express-News newsroom before being compiled in the collage. One of them explains what cormorants have to do with anything.
The committee will prepare the paintings for display or reproduction after BONG Center's resettlement (with Texas plates on the car, we're a little rushed to travel before the immigration bill gets going again). For now, a free detail image suitable for downloading or screensaver use is available to all here. It's the one with the overalls.
Copy and lift option:

SO ANYWAY. What it all means is that BONG is back until the creek backs up or Customs and Immigrations moves the border fence to the Indiana line. Subscribe to the e-mail version at

THE FUNNY PAPERS. Two photographers sat in the back of the meeting room through a long, boring staff meeting when one leaned over to the other and said, "I just passed gas silently."
Whereupon the first whispered back, "You need a new battery in your hearing aid."

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic, Ace Photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.
PANEL ONE: After the usual tete a tete with the authorities at the editors' convention, the Deft Duo zip homeward on the copy desk coffee urn, converted to a low-orbit rocket by the addition of a Do-Good Pellet from the pocket of Speed's trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, as Speed shouts, "Wow, Typo! They never set the bail so high on Features Editor Hyperba Lee!"
PANEL TWO: Typo explicates, "It's the Internet, Boss! Now every hotel manager can click a couple buttons and find repeat offender lists! But don't worry! I got her to sign enough expense-account approvals to cover her weekend and the rest of ours this year!"
PANEL THREE: As they cruise over New York, Our Heroes observe a hubbub in an uptown alley and Typo exclaims, "Look, Boss! It's Ursula, my unrequited love! What's she doing in Manhattan? Ursula! Ursula, you've come back to me!"
INTERPANEL SILHOUETTE: Before Speed can intervene, the panel is obscured by popout lettering reading POW BIFF PUMMEL PUMMEL PUMMEL.
PANEL FOUR: Speed comforts his pal, coaxing, "Just rest easy, Typo! the Special Victims Unit will be here right after rehearsal!"
Typo groans, "Don't fret about me, Boss! Did you see those muscles? Did you see her tip over that remote truck? Did you see how far she threw that Al Roker cutout? I tried to tell her that Katie Couric always had a lock on that job! Did you see her crumble her audition tapes into dust? Is it any wonder I love her so?"
PANEL FIVE: Still waiting for the ambulance, Typo mumbles, "You have to stash the coffee urn, Boss! Rocket use renders its contents a potent aphrodisiac! Only copy editors are immune!"
Speed glances down the alley and sighs, "Too late, Typo! The Post gossip column's Accounts Receivable Department already found it! Tomorrow's Page Six is gonna be a honey!"

BONG is the creation of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough. E-mail at for any reason.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

For April 18, 2005. Here it is, the nickname of the beast, growleth the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 666!

ELECTION SEASON. Here's a tickler file to watch for during the Papal Enclave in Vatican City, based on the modern American campaign expertise:
-- When the election comes down to a handful of finalists, watch for the Swift Boat Veterans to find a member who went to seminary with one or more cardinals. He'll testify that in footraces across the surface of the campus pond, the leading contender tripped his closest competitor, who fell in a huge splash, emerged covered with muck and pond scum and became a Texas lawyer.
-- Talk radio hostess Laura Ingraham will be on Larry King to debate the president of Notre Dame on the leading contender's merits. When Laura loses a point, she will throw a tantrum and screech the clock away, as always.
-- In response to a fall-off in campus speaking engagements, Ann Coulter will offer to bring her own pie-thrower.
-- Phyllis Schlafly, poster girl of every Republican convention since Nixon's first, will demand the disqualification of any cardinal who refuses to kiss a rattlesnake.
-- Sean Hannity will point out 381 times in two broadcasts that Bill Clinton isn't a Catholic but any church member can still write in a vote against him, Hillary, Chelsea or Socks the cat. And in a spirit of fairness, pray for the late Buddy the chocolate Lab.
-- Karl Rove will drop a hint to a briefing-room shill that the leading candidate is a bingo fanatic.
-- Tom DeLay will call the Ten Commandments "the Democratic agenda."
-- At a whistle-stop in Dubuque, Dennis Kucinich will vanish from sight under a bishop's mitre.

OUR FRIENDS THE LENSPEOPLE. What's the least used sentence in the English language? "Isn't that the photographer's Porsche?"
What do you say to a photographer in a three-piece suit? "Will the defendant please rise?"

NOT TO MENTION OUR FRIENDS THE OPINION MAKERS. How long does it take to train an editorial writer? Nobody knows.

AND OF COURSE THE SNORTS SPEWS GUYS. What is the definition of a 2-man sports project team? A 12-man sports project team after a boxing match in Las Vegas.

Visit BONG's News Gorilla store at . New stuff added.

SPOTS WORTH SEEING. The Martini Recipes and Editorial Quality Committee has been tough on TV ad spots of the Doofus Marketing School (the nitwit so caught up in his Grape-Nuts that he doesn't notice the bear routing his camping partner and dragging the tent away). So it is with great humility and fairness that the committee applauds some good spots lately:
-- The guy in the bear or dog suit for Dasani water ("Takes the taste of tennis balls right outa your mouth!").
-- The Kia Sportage spot that ends with the waitress catching the keys, dumping dinner for eight and heading for the truck.

CHECK IT OUT. Progressive auto insurance saves the Chief Copyboy's household more than $800 per year on two cars. See what a clean driving record gets you? Even in Texas, it pays to resist the temptation to use a corner of the Park Avenue to nudge a pointy-toed-booted nitwit and his F-150 off the overpass. Drive carefully, shop around and -– above all else -- use those mirrors.

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic,
Ace Photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and
his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.
PANEL ONE: With a last arpeggio on the Bait Shoppe's upright
piano, Typo smiles, "There you have it, Boss! A march to honor the
Commercial Scimitar! And why should the Washington Post be the only
one with a Sousa tune?"
Looking up from his martini mug, Speed splutters, "March...?
PANEL TWO: Typo announces, "You got it, Boss! This is for
every night-shifter and ambulance-chaser out there. Key of B flat,
4/4 time everyone, trombones gravelly, drums on the rim, and...
"Out of the frigid darkling night we come with the news and
soccer scores,
"Bringing you recipes for quince and two dozen reasons to bolt
your doors,
"Give you fits,
"And every Sunday the publisher's column makes you wish you'd
been born a fish!"
PANEL THREE: Typo continues, "Second strain, now we hear from
the reeds! And...
"First with the news you saw last week on all of the network TV
"Down to the wire by just a squeak we bring you the wisdom Heloise knows,
"Check your guns,
"And just try to stuff a cable dish into the cage where your
parakeet goes!"
PANEL FOUR: As Speed gawks at the other bar patrons marching
around the free-lunch table, Typo brags, "We can get the gurgle out
of the horns and solve the copyright problem on the tune of 'El
Capitan' in time for the 4th of July parade, Boss! Whaddya think?"
PANEL FIVE: Speed speculates, "Well, Absentee Publisher Gimlet
Peen will go along if he can be bass drummer, but...!"
Typo interrupts, "I'm ahead of you on that, Boss, and you're
right! Features Editor Hyperba Lee will want to wear her majorette
costume! But it can still work if we hide her behind the tubas!"

BONG is the product of Charles Stough, who took the week off to be safe from crazed tourists and drunken politicians in San Antonio during Fiesta week! Email for any reason.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Visit BONG's News Gorilla store at . The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun! And you'll wish you and your posse had BONG's beautiful eyeshades, available nowhere else!

For April 6, 2005. Hang in there, Peter Jennings, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 665!

COUNTER-PULITZER PRIZES FOR 2005. Let the winners and losers of the real honors brawl and backbite. No one has ever complained at being overlooked by the Counter-Pulitzer Committee:
BEST ARGUMENT FOR USING A TAPE RECORDER: Andrea Mackris, O'Reilly's quarry.
SO THIS IS THE BIG TIME: Jeff Gannon-James Guckert, homosexual hooker and White House reporter.
WHY A DOG IS A BETTER COMPANION THAN A CITY EDITOR: The later you are, the more excited your dogs are to see you; dogs will forgive you for talking to other dogs; dogs agree that you have to raise your voice to get your point across; dogs seldom outlive you; dogs don't whistle in the newsroom; dogs find you amusing when you're drunk; dogs don't let articles from other newspapers guide their lives; when your dog gets old and senile, you can have it put to sleep.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PUBLISHERS AND THE REST OF US: According to Tom Parmenter, William Randolph Hearst could turn newspaper pages with his toes; said it gave him some distance to study layouts.
PORNUCOPIA: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin, on the subject of indecent shows, says he prefers to let competition and marketplace forces rule cable TV programming.
YOU GOTTA TAKE THE HITS TO MAKE IT IN THIS BUSINESS, KID: To Shepard Smith, Fox News, for scooping commercial and cable media with the announcement of Pope John Paul II's death. He even beat the pope.
BEST FORMULA FOR DISAPPEARING FROM SIGHT, NEWSPAPER DIVISION: Robert Novak, columnist who blew the whistle on former CIA operative and wife of Bush adversary Valerie Plame, whose name somehow hasn't come up in the federal investigation of the leak even as probers threaten jail time for journalists who didn't print the tip.
BEST FOIL FOR HUMOR OCLUMNISTS ON A SLOW DAY: Majority Leader Tom DeLay, ace Republican fundraiser, friend to Russian lobbyists, superior provider for his family and gerrymandering mapmaker.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Visit BONG's News Gorilla store at . The sun'll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun! And you'll wish you and your posse had BONG's beautiful eyeshades, available nowhere else!

DAN RATHER, WE HARDLY KNEW YE! But we do know that if you coulda just picked a phony name, worked weekends as a male hooker and lobbed softballs to the White House flack, you coulda had a West Wing press pass and been quoted liberally (ahem) on Fox News, so maybe you want to go fishing now anyway, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 664!

EARLY EDITIONS. Click on the News Gorilla blog address above before we post this edition there, to catch some breaking stuff from the past week or so. It will all be there next week too, but when this stuff hits, it will be further down, get it?

TAKE THAT THURBER, YOU PEDANTIC MOUNTEBANK! The New Yorker recently told of Miss Eleanor Gould, their "Grammarian" a/k/a copy editor of 54 years, who recently died. She copyread all the greats over the years. She had fallen on the bad side of James Thurber by not recognizing the word "raunchy," instead changing it to "paunchy" to his great displeasure.
Things improved between the two when Thurber wrote that "facetiously" was the only English word with all vowels in order. "What about 'abstemiously?'" she asked. Even if Thurber had shot back with "abstentious," she might have whipped out "phragelliorhynchus," so it's good Thurber backed down.


BRIBES, PAYOFFS AND OTHER PATRIOTIC IDEALS. How curious that the administration saw the need to slide thousands of dollars to U.S. columnists to promote, lessee here, keeping kids in school and, what else oh yeah, marriage. One gets the idea that when the crossing light turns green, White House people look around for someone to pay off. Hey guys, Tom DeLay pretty much stays up on the Hill. You won't find him with his hand out this far from an election.
Anyway, longtime BONGer John D. Ayer, who professes law at UC Davis, sent in this little ditty of Hilaire Belloc's to remind use that coziness with power is not exclusively Amedican: You cannot hope to bribe or twist Thank God, the British journalist. But when you see what he will do Unbribed, there's no occasion to.

SO LONG, DUKE. Hunter S. Thompson was one of those writers who had something missing, and then he also had something extra. Most of us would not have expected him to off himself but now that he's gone, it's fair to assess his effects. Like most geniuses, Thompson made it look too easy. After him came a generation of hacks unfit to deliver cocoa to Rolling Stone. But they found jobs on countless small and middle-sized papers. They are remarkable in middle age not nearly so much for their writing as for their whining. They brought an infestation of 40-line paragraphs and 200-inch stories and proudly judged their own work by how closely it resembled gray 2x4 lumber lying on the page. The readers judge it the same way, but with a different response.

YEAH, WELL, PRETTY ABSORBENT ANYWAY. Angus Lind at the New Orleans Times-Picayune asked for some tips about fun newspaper mottoes a couple of weeks ago. We told him about the family's old subtabloid weekly in Arizona called "Sage: The only newspaper you can open up in a high wind or read on a horse." And there are several that have been using "The only newspaper in the world that gives a damn about (insert town name here)." Any others, copy Angus too.

WILD ART. Peter Zicari reports, "I don't think I ever wrote a horoscope, but I did swap a few (just peel the type off an old page before they throw it out, simple as pie). But when I started in Syracuse, the regional office was perpetually desperate for art, because the buses from the bureaus didn't arrive till after the page designers had to have their plans in shape -- and they didn't trust the stringers and reporters to actually deliver on the pictures they promised (with good reason).
"You could always make a few dollars by shooting off a roll in the office Yashica twin-lens, and one by one they got used as inside art or even the anchor of a section page. One lucrative day I drove clear to Cortland, N.Y., and then out of the circulation area to see my parents, and they even used the shot I took of a robin nesting in a mop on their back porch. With some creative fudging of the location.
"But as I was congratulating myself, an old-timer put it in perspective: The month before I arrived, a bureau reporter had stepped out of his office and ripped off a roll of shots without leaving the block. The last one (four parked cars, six parking meters and some creative cutline writing) was still waiting to go when it snowed. They were painting on the picture with the white-out when a roll of something else showed up in the nick of time."
Peter brings to mind a snow-country rule that had slipped our mind since returning to the land of exhausts (horse, cow and SUV). The Dayton Daily News kept files of wild-art filler matter, but in winter it had to be sorted into Snow and Unsnow. One couldn't show kids biking woodland trails when there was 22 inches on them. How do you guys sort wild art in Palm Springs – caddy day vs. cart day?

ACCUFINGER. Dr. Denny Wilkins, who professes journalism at St. Bonaventure U., confesses, "OK, OK, I 'fess up. Those who concocted horoscopes (admittedly 'cause the syndicates screwed up) never worked alone on Friday night -- and not get the AP's weather forecast for Saturday. "So I'd walk outside, wet my finger and stick it in the wind (not elsewhere, people) and guesstimate the temperature for Saturday. It's New England, I figured. How wrong could I be? Just write 'unseasonable temperatures and chance of rain late.' Sadly, I was never more accurate than the AP." Don't beat yourself up, Prof. How could anyone be?

TICKLER FILE. This is a find: Vlierodam, a Netherlands wire rope company that serves the world shipping industry, publishes a more-or-less-daily collection of news about ships, boats and ports. Pirates in Malaysian waters, rescues at sea, polluters and assorted mishaps are reported among beautiful photos of sometimes very ugly vessels. Face it, a heavy-lift loaded with a North Sea oil platform lying sideways resembles nothing so much as a train wreck with a paint job. And some of those RORO (roll-on, roll-off) carriers remind us of that college dorm that kept catching fire mysteriously. But you can find tips for local, science or business pages almost every day. For example, folks in Texas may not know that old asbestos- and chemical-tainted ships get sent from Virginia down to Brownsville fairly often for breaking up. It's a free PDF file:

avers that in Wenatchee, Wash., the annual Apple Blossom Festival, preceded by the Apple Blossom Queen contest, are both huge beyond all human reason, no matter how appallingly sexist is the pageant,
and dated and tired. So they were down to 10 finalists and the paper was running the profiles of the girls, based on questionnaires they filled out.
"So one of the copy editors, a former English teacher, is editing
them, groans and tells me 'Vanessa, listen to this: she says her
favorite book is 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Anita Price Davis.
"I say, 'Who the hell is that?' since obviously Harper Lee, not this
Anita Price Davis, wrote 'To Kill a Mockingbird' -- and the copy
editor informs me that Anita P. Davis is the author of many
well-used literary study guides.
"'So her favorite book is a Cliff's Note,'" the copy editor says.
"We got a good laugh out of that one, and had the reporter call her
to save her from public humiliation, although it was tempting to
leave it. Couldn't be sure it wasn't just someone erroneouslyfilling in the author's name for her. Yeah, right."

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic, ace photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig. PANEL ONE: Dozing in his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Speed is awakened by Typo's loud arrival. Typo declares, "I was just down checking the trash bins in the alley for seminar hors d' oeuvres, Boss! Don't worry if you see someone going through the bins! He's clean!"
PANEL TWO: Speed blusters, "Wh-what, Typo? Let me contemplate that statement a moment."
PANEL THREE: Spreading a checked tablecloth and laying out a plate of cold cuts and crudités, Typo avers, "No, really, Boss! It's just some guy from the Swift Boat vets! They have so much money now that they're broadening their crack investigative powers to the military records of newspaper publishers, the better to destroy more people!"
Speed sputters, "Newspaper publishers . . . destroy more people?"
PANEL FOUR: Popping the cork on a bottle of Chateau Hediondo '03, Typo appends, "Yes, Boss! I thought he might help us find Absentee Publisher Gimlet Peen, missing since that tango contest riot! The swifties' crack operative instantly got on his cell phone and found 14 fellow members who say they worked in the very same Camp Basurero grease pit as Mr. Peen, and in almost the very same decade! They're already compiling affidavits and doctoring photos!" Speed wonders, "I never heard any of that about Mr. Peen . . . ?"
PANEL FIVE: Savoring a sample of the vintage, Typo mentions, "Oh, I didn't say he was in the AMERICAN army, Boss! But I'm sure they'll work out the details! The Swift Boats vets' head guy is a Texas lawyer, after all!"

News Gorilla, a version of BONG Bull, is the product of Charles Stough, who recently woke up dressed strangely and craving enchiladas and pico de gallo in San Antonio, Texas. Email for any reason.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

R.I.P., MAX JENNINGS. The retired Editor of the Dayton Daily News has died in New Mexico and is being hailed for the elegies as a great man. Sorry, but Max was a drunk. He often gave conflicting orders to different individuals or departments and then complained about the newsroom conflicts. He never saw a 2-man, 2-hour job that couldn't be improved with a 15-member committee and months of meetings. He came from Mesa, Ariz., which never heard of smokestack industry, and he let himself be buffaloed by Armco Steel's flack into apologizing for the DDN's coverage of worker fatalities in Armco's plant. Those were our readers being dragged into the augur and charred in the slag pile explosion. Max might have been useful as an Arizona State University journalism prof but he was the opposite of a newsman.

KNOCKING THEM DOWN IN THE SECOND GRADE. It's amazing how long this joke has been around and I never heard it. It's also bowling them over in the newsroom. From a BONG member:
Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting c-
-ow who?

JOINT WAS JUMPING. Never mind what else you missed when you were the geek of the second grade. Here's one that the girls were chanting with the jumprope, and if you hung around, sometimes you could get a glimpse of panties:
"Salome was a dancer. She danced before the king. She wiggled and she shimmied and she shook most everything. The king said 'Salome, you can't do that in here!' Salome said 'Baloney!' and she kicked the chandelier."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

=-=-=-=-=-=-THE REAL BONG CONTENT STARTS HERE =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 663


For Jan. 25, 2005. Oh yeah, White House team, let's get that Iraqi election behind us, get our correspondents unembedded and home, and get with the Lame Duck program in serious form, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 663!

Visit BONG's News Gorilla store at .

LET NO PERFIDY GO UNREWARDED. Well, the Professional Ethics and Martini Formulae Committee certainly is disappointed that more than a month has gone by since the Chief Copyboy's confession and still there is no outcry, no letters to Romenesko, no tongue-clucking by journalism deans or TV talking heads. Does no one care that the public record is chockablock with phony horoscopes and patchwork creations designed to make deadline, and forewarning the helpless zodiac-following public be damned? Will there be no CNN offers, no speaking tours, no book deal, no lucrative buyout? Well piffle then, no more confessing.
-- George Carvill offers: "Surely I am not the only one who remembers the old story about the newspaper that omitted the star charts one day, only to see the phones light up like the northern sky on a clear winter's night?
"No one could pacify the callers until an old editor suggested the
following response:
" 'The stars said we should not publish the horoscope today.'
"There were no further complaints."
-- Ronald C. Roat at the University of Southern Indiana remarked, " When I was in the editor in Frankfort, Ind., we shuffled them one day and ran them in whatever order was on top. Unfortunately, digital delivery of everything shortly thereafter made it less fun."

THE 10 MINUTES TO PRESS START AND THE STREAMER HED AIN'T HERE BLUES. We recently were reminded of this 1990 creation by the Chief Copyboy, and thrilled to discover that it still has legs. Imagine the harmonica accompaniment:

10 minutes left to press start and the streamer hed ain't here.
The columnists are dried up and they been that way for years.
But they never join the union and readers think they're stars.
And the publisher's a rummy with a tab at 50 bars.

The Nicaragua stringer disappeared on a real thriller,
A probe on tropic butterflies endangered by guerrillas.
And a fax came in from Vilnius, or was it Budapest:
The bureau says their invasion scoop last week was just a jest.

The pop music critic's column got us sued again today.
Something goes off in her occiput when Ozzy Osbourne plays.
Yeah, she looks like Judy Woodruff but she writes like Janet Cooke,
And no one's really sure if she ever read a book.

They found a drunk photographer on the side of Ludlow Street.
He was naked and unconscious with nail polish on his feet.
The bulls could recognize him without seeing his press card
By the coffee coming out his ears and his on that was still hard.

The obit guy's in tears again. He's been forever in that shirt.
He writes those loving words before they cover you with dirt.
He knew his predecessor, the old man who had his place.
Before the landlord found his lonely corpse, his Airedale ate his face.

10 minutes left to press start and the streamer hed ain't here,
And the ayem Page 1 editor went downstairs to get a beer.
It might be coffee in his cup; the printers say it's ink.
It doesn't matter anyhow 'cause no one's paid to think.

Our reporter at the Cop Shop just called in a major piece.
Seems the judge will take your payoff if you want a quick release.
So a writer with no credit is locked in, awaiting bail,
But he says there ain't no hurry 'cause it's warmer in the jail.

A pale and withered hunchback on the desk passed out and died
While the company's strikebreakers kept the rescue squad outside,
But it'll be OK for now – Boy Editor found some scabs
Who can crank out a few headlines, even if they don't know their dads.

The A.M.E. called herself a model when she danced on Bourbon Street,
Till the vice cops raised their prices. Now she takes her white wine neat.
And she writes 15-page memos on how sweet all this will be
When we stop covering boxing and all switch to herbal tea.

10 minutes left to press start and the streamer hed ain't here.
The readers burned the pressroom down, and you still can hear them cheer.
A drunkard hit a school bus and the streets are filled with grief,
And the City Desk'll cover it if he'll fax a press release.

They hired a new columnist at seven times the scale,
And he showed up with his agent, and a taste for pre-teen males.
They put ferns up in his office and it overlooks the street,
But he says he had more fun back on the Churches beat.

Meet the new project team executive, a babe from Baltimore,
Who changed her name for bylines and changed the locks on all the doors.
She cruises on a Harley and she smokes mint-tipped cigars,
And has a toy-boy secretary that she takes to seminars.

10 minutes left to press start and the streamer hed ain't here,
But we never let it bother us, 'cause the First Amendment's clear:
No one tells us what to print and what we shouldn't tell,
And the pension fund's for looting when our street sales go to hell.

10 minutes left to press start and the streamer hed ain't here.
10 minutes left to press start and and the ever-lovin',
read-it-and-weep, up-your-dress,
bloodshot-eyed, muffin-spittin',
streamer hed
still ain't here.

SICK BAY REPORT. Thanks to all the prayers and bar bets of BONGers worldwide, the Chief Copyboy is on the mend after some pretty radical cancer surgery (did you ever wake up restrained, and not in a jail cell? Damned disconcerting.). The Continuity and Resume Updates Committee is grateful for its continuing charter.

BONG Bull is a production of Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild Chief Copyboy and San Antonio (Texas) Express-News copy editor Charley Stough, an eight-time-so-far national Hearst headline contest winner. E-mail Visit the News Gorilla store at .

Saturday, December 25, 2004

For Dec. 26, 2004. Let's get with it, project committees, only five more days to slap out that thumbsucker and troll for that Pulitzer Prize, warns the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 661!

HOT OFF THE PRESSES. While they last, the Newsgorilla store has added a 16x20 poster print of the famous watercolor poster "The Editor" to the inventory. The price is a mere $17.99, a fraction of the price of the original. See it at

A HEARTFELT CONFESSION. While we're on the subject of ethics and in the spirit of starting the new year right and of joining the growing corps of journalism careers ruined by transgressions – phony quotes, plagiarism (New York Times crossword puzzle hint: copied copy?) and stuff like that – Charley Stough, the Chief Copyboy of BONG, has a confession:
I have fabricated horoscopes.
It was the 1970s, when computer editing systems were rudimentary (at least ours was at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News) and syndicates sent stuff by mail. Sometimes we didn't have the horoscope. A few times we published editor's notes saying sorry, no horoscope. But it didn't matter how sorry we were, we got angry phone calls demanding to know what the horoscope would have said. Sometimes we would have the syndicate stuff by then, or sometimes we would read it to the callers from another paper. If memory serves, the angriest callers, the most paralyzed by the lack of guidance from the syndicate, the most frightened to go out of the house without a horoscope, were born under Sagittarius. Draw from that what significance you will.
Anyway, finally, one day without the horoscopes in hand, I told the slot guy I would handle it. No phone calls for us tomorrow. No readers reeling in anger, confusion and fear. All would find a helping hand from the Dayton Daily News.
And I faked it.
Well, not exactly faked it. If you look at what newspaper horoscopes say, you'll admit it's pretty soft stuff. They never tell you to go ahead and marry the preacher's daughter or to take that job in Cheboygan. They don't say what to name the baby nor whether to let the chimney go another winter without sweeping. They say general stuff like "Be careful with money" or "Enjoy unplanned challenges." So OK, I reasoned, what is there about Sagittarians today that they should be careful with their money but those Virgos don't have to count their change? Let's go into the dead type and move last Tuesday's Cancer to tomorrow's Libra, and so on. Taurus, it's your turn to balance your checkbook, and Pisces to get the message from afar. It was before the Do Not Call list. Everybody got messages from afar.
Presto. Public service committed, the horoscopes delivered, the readers happy, no one the wiser, the phones quiet. Well, not quiet. People still called to ask who won the 1948 Stanley Cup or the 1961 World Series (when my friend Jon Miller got those he just said Baltimore). But nobody had to read the Cincy Enquirer horoscopes to anybody.
I faked the horoscopes two or three times. We merged with the other paper. We got a new computer system. Then we got another one. We may have changed syndicates. Years passed. I became a columnist.
It was a long time before another horoscope was missing, and then one day there on the comics page, where the horoscopes should be, there was a black-bordered box saying it was missing. Even the dumbest horoscope believer could see it was gone, but we had to lay a big black splotch on the page to make sure everyone knew we had blown it.
I asked at the copy desk, "Hey, don't you guys remember how to handle that?" and one or two rim editors said sure they did. But in the merger we had acquired an assistant city editor who believed in New Age crystals and messages from space and flute music in the bathtub and, apparently, horoscopes. He had raised a fuss, so we weren't going to run any untruthful horoscopes. Even if the movie reviewer wrote all his Oscar-nominations stories in the first person, the zeitgeist was trending toward not deceiving Dayton Daily News readers.
So as far as I know, no one at that paper ever faked a horoscope except me. Brutally cut them to one sentence. Left out tomorrow's winning lottery numbers or the map to the downtown parking meter stuck since July on 51 minutes. But for bogus horoscopes, I'm a solo act.
And then in 1997 the famous horoscope writer Jeanne Dixon died. Didn't tell anyone she was going, just checked out. So OK, that's two fakers. But while I still have time to confess, I'm confessing. So there, despise me!

SPELL-CHECKING LEWIS CARROLL. San Antonio (Texas) Express-News copy editor Andy Thomas ran "Jabberwocky" through a CCI spell-checker. Here is a verse of the original, followed by the corrected version. (Where the spell-checker made no suggestions, the word is omitted.)

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
'Twas brisling, and the stilly toes
Did gyre and gamble in the wade.
All missy were the ***,
And the mamma rates ***.'

COMIX SECTION. The Further Adventures of Herman "Speed" Graphic, Ace Photographer for the Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar, and his Faithful Companion, Typo the Wonder Pig.
PANEL ONE: The Deft Duo consider the size of their merit raise and ponder what went wrong. Typo enumerates, "...Well, challenging the News Editor to name one local hospital or two bartenders without looking at the Rolodex, that demoralized the deskers, Boss!"
PANEL TWO: Speed agrees, "Yeah, that was a good one, Typo! And how about when I challenged the Design and Redesign Committee to state the difference between Pantone T-19 Opaque Offset and Shinola?"
Typo admits, "That too."
PANEL THREE: Speed cheers, "Or how about bringing back the Third Place trophy from the Chagrin Mud Run! No staff car had ever made higher than Eighth until then!"
Typo declares, "Any other staffer would've seen his photo hung in the elevator, Boss!"
PANEL FOUR: Speed demands, "And just name anybody who ever cleared a meeting room quicker than when I ...!"
Typo interrupts, "A remarkable feat, Boss!"
PANEL FIVE: Warding off the chill with his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, Speed looks at his pay stub and wonders, "So I wonder how come they did me like this, Typo?"
Typo reassures, " 'Attitude,' Boss! They always cover up their fear with that silly bureaucratic meaningless word, 'attitude!' "

BONG Bull is a production of Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild Chief Copyboy and San Antonio (Texas) Express-News copy editor Charley Stough, an eight-time national Hearst headline contest winner. E-mail Visit the News Gorilla store at .