Saturday, May 24, 2003

Visit the News Gorilla store at . Good stuff in the store this week, and you'll me needing wardrobe for those summertime leisure moments!

For May 24, 2003. Well gee, Congressman DeLay and Attorney General Ashworth, you didn't need to fool the feds and the Rangers to hunt down those quorum-busting Texas Democrats! The wire services knew where they were in minutes! And they made the Texas State Legislature less dangerous for several days, notes the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 624!

MAKE THAT 47 DIRTY WORDS. Ten years ago at the Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 selfless minions on a committee created a three-tiered list of words that require vetting past executives before publication. Category Ones require an OK from the Editor; Twos can be allowed by highest on-site power players above the rank of the top news desk editor; reporters of Threes can coax permission from assigning desk editors.
The Ones, Twos and most of the Threes would be hard to work into a zoning commission story but might find context in a late-breaking fenderbender piece or response to an annual performance evaluation. As a free service to those who need a boost to their news judgment, the Editorial Standards and Martini Recipes Committee will share its copy of this helpful list.
Ones (requiring approval of very high executive: Asshole, bullshit, Christ, cock, cocksucker, cunt, dick, dickhead, eat, fuck, Jesus, motherfucker, prick, pussy, screw (intercourse), shit and suck (oral sex).
Twos (requiring approval of ranking executive in the newsroom): Ass, ball, balls, dork (penis), fart, goddamn, lay, pecker, piss, pissed (angry), putz (penis), schmuck (penis) and tit.
Threes (requiring approval of ranking originating desk editor): Bastard, bitch, bull, butt, crap, damn, dork (person), hell, pee, putz (person), schmuck (person), screw (not intercourse) and suck (contemptible), dreck and skank.
Dreck and skank are new laureates, according to Addam Schwartz, . We know papers where the loss of such words would make Upcoming meetings very hard to carry on.

COUNTING THEIR BLESSINGS. A group of copy editors sat on the porch at the Home, when one said, "My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee."
"Yes, I know," said another. "My cataracts are so bad, I can't even see my coffee."
"What? Speak up! I can't hear you!" said the third.
"I hear voices all the time!" exclaimed the fourth.
"I forget where I am, and where I'm going," said the fifth.
"What chickens?" said the sixth.
The others nodded in agreement.
"Well, count your Blessings," said the first copy editor cheerfully. "At least we can still drive downtown to our part-time jobs at the paper!"

THANKS, MIRACLES OF MODERN MEDICINE. Have you been watching the TV commercials for pills? Do you listen to the side-effects warnings? Whom in the pharms business should we thank for so many laxatives? Why, they have them that overcome allergies, that cure toenail fungus, that conquer arthritis, that lower blood pressure . . . .

ALL OF WHICH IS TERRIBLY CONFUSING TO OUR NORTHERN NEIGHBORS. Curious in Canada asks, "Reading the Jayson Blair saga in the NYT and elsewhere, I wonder if others wonder as well whether the NYT is protesting too much? Memory fails me but did the WashPost go through the same agonizing and belaboured introspection when Janet Cooke fabricated her youthful heroin addict a few years back?"
Oh indeed, Cur, and so have other newspapers whose columnists and reporters have been found fabricating quotes, inventing characters and plagiarizing from others or from themselves (as in recycling old columns). We hark back to the New York Sun's redoubtable "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus." It can now be told that there was a Virginia, but no Santa.
We have been stunned by almost daily new facets to the Blair thing. We have to admit that few papers would have undressed and then redressed themselves as thoroughly as the New York Times has done. Not that other papers should not do so.
For the Times is unfortunately not the only paper where an anointed doofus gets less scrutiny than most reporters. The Times is a sadder case because one assumes that its managers have been excellent reporters; but what of other papers where managers happen by bozo explosion, one committee lizard hiring the next one, until finally the big decisions rest with posers who don't know the bus barn from the Board of Education.
Such managers aren't equipped to spot incongruities of fiction-writing reporters, assuming that management wants to. They even promote and feature the ones who somehow always turn up the too-good-to-be-true eyewitness who talks in country music lyrics, the back-fence neighbor with the wisdom of Solomon, the omniscient "courthouse wag."
At a newspaper of my recent employe (and not in Dayton, Tenn. or Dayton, Ky.) it was a rule of the copy desk that rim editors could not confront poor, sensitive reporters directly about gaffes. A rim rat could not even demand to know which spelling of a name was the correct one. Pages waited while such details were negotiated at manager levels, committee pal to committee pal, even if it took half an hour to find absent managers on deadline. Well, here's Solomonic wisdom for such managers: When the big, inevitable, ugly one hits, your ass is mincemeat, as it should be.
The shame of the Blair scandal is that it happened at the Times. That lets too many second- and third-tier papers self-righteously point and cluck, and too many airhead managers make stirring lunch-club speeches about journalistic quality who should be back at the newsroom checking facts.

CAYUSE. It was our kicker line on BONG Bull 623 (exclamation points confound the subscribers' spam filters) but wouldn't you know there's more to the story. Here is news from Clyde H. Bentley , who professes journalism at the University of Missouri (ba-DING) and knows the word as more than a cowboy's mere epithet for ornery ones:
"Although folks in the East sometimes think it is cowboy slang, take care with your light-hearted use of 'Cayuse.' My friends in Oregon who were members of the Cayuse Tribe have a long and honored history. They stunned Lewis and Clark with both their equestrian prowess and their vast herds of very fine horses. Other tribes feared them for their military skill. And cowboys of your sang about the 'Cayuse Pony,' which rivaled the Appaloosa bred by the Nez Perce. Chief Joseph's last stand may have save the Nez Perce and the Appaloosa from historic oblivion, but the U.S. Army decided to demobilize the related Cayuse by slaughtering thousands of their beautiful native horses.
"But the Tribe is back on a roll -- via the dice. As part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, the Cayuse opened a successful casino near Pendleton, Ore., and re-invested their substantial winnings into other businesses. High on the list -- a newspaper. Take a look at the Confederated Umatilla Journal at .

WHY YES, THANKS FOR ASKING, BOTH NOVELS ARE STILL AVAILABLE, AND CHEAP, TOO. The historic novel "Stone Flute" by Charles Stough covers about 400 years of a little hacienda in tropical Panama, a place that doesn't get nearly enough credit for its astonishing history of pre-Columbian tribes, pirates and conquistadors, and of course modern Panamanian politicians and ugly Americans. See "Stone Flute" prices at
And the Chief Copyboy's other novel, "Warm Spit," is a tome that set out to be a trashy story and lived up to its potential. In it, Attitude Problem Newsman Batton Shanks takes on venal publishers, murderous psychotic civil servants, 300-pound Texas honky-tonk waitresses and the delectably long-legged Christine Flanders to improve his newspaper career not one whit. Shop at
The new Batton Shanks novel, "Horse Apples," is on schedule for 2004 publication. Anyone who opposes use of his or her name as a character in a trashy Texas novel, get your lawyer letters in the mail.

YEAH, WELL, THEY DON'T WORRY ABOUT HOITY-TOITY BLUENOSES IN THEIR READERSHIP LIKE THE REST OF US HAVE TO. Texas Lawyer recently headlined: "Court of Criminal Appeals Upholds Butt Search for Crack."

OCCULT HAND SOCIETY INDUCTEE. John Skoyles wrote in the St. Augustine Record and the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
"He describes horseback riding in Central Park, and the dilemma of arriving in New Orleans for Mardi Gras without having booked a room in advance. He is amused at the size of American sedans, commenting that 'even the taxis have really long tailfins.' It is as if an occult hand placed Calvino in our country so we could appreciate our own eccentricities."

BIG NEWS, LITTLE NEWS. Ro Nagey read about Second Coming Type in BB623 and retorted, "Back in the halcyon days of yore when I was a mere sprat at Penton Publishing in Cleveland, we referred to 'Second Coming Bold' and 'Flea-Track Gothic.' One was for scoops, the other for retractions: I don't believe I have to explain which was used for which."

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: Speed wakes from dozing in the Photo Lab to find Typo laying a breakfast tray before him with the morning Interoffice Bulletin. Typo declares, "Why, good afternoon, your Managing Editorship! Your executive lunch!"
PANEL TWO: Munching greedily on a cold turkey leg and sipping champagne, Speed grins, "What a dream I was having! I dreamt I was pro -- say again? My whatship?"
PANEL THREE: Typo smiles, "Why Boss, your modesty is always so charming, but completely out of place for a Managing Editor! Don't you remember going with Absentee Publisher Gimlet Peen, Features Editor Hyperba Lee and me to the Colonial? We were the foursome behind Annika Sorenstam! Don't you recall the après-scorecard party, when you told me to drop a Do-Good Pellet from the pocket of your trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, into the punchbowl? Don't you remember finally telling both bosses what you would do if you were managing editor?"
PANEL FOUR: Speed gasps, "I'm reading here in the Bulletin! 'It's time we stopped the phony stories, the expense-account finagling, the covering up for incompetent middle managers and over-their-head protégés, the huge gaps in our local coverage, the silly prize-driven projects, the many unkept promises!' There sure has been a drastic change in management style around here!"
PANEL FIVE: Typo explicates, "Yes, well, ahem! Actually that's the Bulletin circulated by Hyperba *after* your accession, Boss! It seems you kept your promise to Gimlet with that table-clearing pool shot, but the overpowering effects of the Do-Good Pellet prevented you from keeping your promise to Hyperba, and she refuses to believe it happens to all men!"

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BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, a copy editor at the San Antonio Express News. Email for any reason. Phone (210) 250-3191 after 6 p.m. central time.