Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 646
and News Gorilla

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For May 18, 2004. Hey, State Department, you geniuses, you've done it again! Instead of sending the Secretary of State to all the world's capitals to answer the same old question about that WMD malarkey, just keep a potted palm at Foggy Bottom and let the reporters interview that! Thanks, Tim Russert, for helping with the prototype! Why, just the annual travel savings alone will pay for, oh, two or three days of Halliburton's time designing an ice skating rink for Baghdad, opines the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 646!

IF YOU CAN'T GET THE NOTEBOOK, AIM FOR THE PENCILS. Ringers in the White House pressroom lob softballs. Fox News Channel talking heads set up tarbabies to divert their feebler viewers from the facts (hey, Sean Hannity, CIA circle-jerks in Abu Ghraib aren't about John Kerry). These are hard times for journalists, the perennial targets. And there's more:
-- At Barton County (Kansas) Community College, j-teacher Jennifer Schartz (CQ) is sacked. It seems the trustees don't like reading letters to the editor of the college paper after an athlete's transcript gets padded so he can transfer to the University of Missouri. Such comments "are by and large personal attacks upon other members of the Barton County Community College family," the lawyer letter said. A working wretch would wonder why a Kansas junior college's journalism job would be worth the stamp to protest the firing. But the school paper that Schartz supervised is called the Interrobang, and that's about the coolest T-shirt the Professional Standards and Raiments Committee can think of for the interdepartmental softball game.
-- Also in Kansas, Ron Johnson, the K-State newspaper adviser, is losing his job as director of student publications and adviser to the Kansas State Collegian. The Black Student Union complained about the newspaper's failure to cover a student government event, which drew about 1,000 participants.
-- Brazil, which saw fit to brag when it banned nude dancing in Rio's Carnaval, tried to boot NYT reporter Larry Rohter for saying President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has a problem with the old agua ardiente. Talk about backwards PR.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS. The Web site offers a coin to flip at the polling place next November. With so many voters choosing that way, the challenge for news organizations will be filling the pages with punditry between then and now.

DON'T DO IT, BUT IF YOU DO, PATRONIZE OUR ADVERTISERS. In a recent raid, Syracuse cops confiscated 55 fake ID cards and charged three barkeepers with serving alcohol to minors. The Syracuse University Daily Orange (another great T-shirt for newsroom use) reported the case on its Web site, with a click-through ad to a guy selling home bars.

EXPERT ADVICE. If you hang around in Usenet groups (click the Groups tab in Google, and your favorite subject in the window) you can learn a lot of keen stuff. Some recent dialogue in a photographer's forum:
Q. – "I was wondering if anyone had any hints or suggestions as to college courses which I should take or extracurricular activities in which I should participate in order to further my insight into the world of a photojournalist."
A – "Paparazzi is the only good PJ Career left it pays well and it is actually fun. Newspapers etc. pay poorly and not much over minimum wages, I would not recommend going into $30,000 of college debt for a job that pays as much as working at a burger joint for high school dropouts." -- (NOTICE) "Popular Science wants first-person accounts of the most dramatically frustrating battery failures ever: you were about to sell your Enron stocks short when your cell phone died; you were resuscitating a heart attack victim and your defibrillator balked; you were stranded in the middle of the ocean when your GPS monitor crashed; you finally found evidence of WMDs in Tikrit but your camcorder conked out; just so long as it involved some portable electronic device (as in, not a car) and an epic moment in your life (as in, it was more than just a bummer). We thought photojournalists might have some good missed-the-moment stories."
(Comment: There are no good missed-the-moment journalism stories, Pop Science, unless you count leaving your camera back in the room when the boss climbed into the punchbowl at the seminar.)
Q. -- Did someone read the 'ASSOCIATED PRESS GUIDE TO PHOTOJOURNALISM?' What do you think of it?"
A. – "That a lot of photo-editors and managers at the AP, should sit down and read it themselves."
Q. – "I read an article that touched me about making a difference to the environment or to mankind through ones photography. How does a non-professional photographer do that?"
A. – "By not leaving the film wrapper in the woods?"

AMERICA IS GREAT BECAUSE OF ADVERTISING. Stuart Elliott reports in the New York Times that Ireland is exporting vodka to the United States.
No, seriously.
It's named Boru, after Brian Boru, whose harp has come to
symbolize the country. The ad campaign will swing on Irish wisdom including:
"Boru on rush hour: Life is too short not to be in a hurry."
"Boru on cellphones: People who like to hear themselves talk rarely care how others hear them."
"Boru on civic improvement: The thing about cities is that they're never done."
"Boru to the man about town: May you die in bed at 95, shot by a jealous spouse."
"Boru on enjoying life: It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money."
"Boru on patience: Don't get on the bus before it arrives and don't get off before it stops."
"Boru on advice: Worse than the man who will take no advice is the man who takes it all."
"Boru on lovely women: Beauty may boil the blood but it won't
boil the tea kettle."
On variety, with a trio of flavored varieties: "Too much of a good thing is a contradiction in terms."
Elliott recalls another traditional Irish saying that might work with editing: "Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbor. It makes you shoot at your landlord and it makes you miss him."

IF ONE MUST BANG, DON'T BANG THERE. Lena Olsson of Aftonbladet is among this august assembly's most fervent members, and notes that the proliferation of firewalls and spam filters of complicates BONG Bull's arrival. Her server's filter snagged BB643 on these counts:
0.7 ACT_NOW_CAPS. BODY: Talks about 'acting now' with capitals
2.7 COMPETE. BODY: Compete for your business
1.5 NO_OBLIGATION. BODY: There is no obligation
1.1 BANG_BOSS. BODY: Talks about your boss with an exclamation!
Members who miss any issue, or wonder what happened to it, can always find an archive at if they keyword BONG and follow the links. And of course there is the blog Newsgorilla where the text is displayed a day or two after the e-mail version goes out. Stuff that baby into your favorites right now.
Dealing with spam filters is almost as confusing as dealing with people. Even an exclamation point puts you on the zap list. How is one to know what not to say, and where?
Indeed, banging the boss is dangerous. Indeed too, there is a huge difference in office behavior in Texas compared to Ohio's. It must be the cold winters up there. In BONG's old HQ in Dayton, people were disciplined for using profanity in the office, creating a hostile workplace environment, even if the shits and goddams weren't directed at the person who was offended. One didn't say "girl" to a female because political correctness demands "woman."
But Ohioans were all over each other after hours -- bosses, co-workers, interdepartmental hanky panky, hot tub parties, gay, straight, maybe even dogs and cats (who knows what daysiders do?).
But here in Texas there isn't even TALK of sexual stuff (what one old Ohio newsman friend of mine called "fornibuggery"), not that anyone could hear it for all the cursing and profanity in the newsroom. Everybody in a skirt is a girl, probably even the guy in a kilt. There's a sweet little local lady about 50 in the education department, so proper she's scary, who ran into the newsroom a couple of days ago and declared, "Shit!" because she had seen a cockroach.
Well, Texas roaches are the size of Volvos, but it can't be the first one a San Antonio lady ever saw. Not in OUR newsroom. There may not be much beer or whisky in the carpet, but roaches eat yogurt too. Besides, it's spring.
It must be philosophy. Sun-bathed Texans are of faiths that are big on verbalizing and theory, everybody's watching, hands at your side, we'll talk more after the precinct committee meeting, fix that little problem with the vote recount and then go to the hotel and run over my husband three or four times.
Ohioans in their smokestack cities tend more toward strong trade unionism, less talk, more action, it's only May and winter's coming, let's get it on. Which goes to show: There's culture shock everywhere.
It also makes the Chief Copyboy's Texas Postage art that much funnier. See and download examples from

A production of BONG Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, San Antonio Express-News. E-mail
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