Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 647
and News Gorilla

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For June 19, 2004. No problem with a little fibbing on your circulation numbers, Chicago Sun-Times. We know what happens, panic, hysteria, competitive pressure, quotas, bonuses, ad rates. Just calm down and pay for this pizza delivery. That'll be $33,489 plus tip for the 4,328 pepperoni-and-onion double-cheeses your reporters just ate, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 647!

BOOKMARK THIS. It's the newsrack where BONG Bull blog editions (say that fast 13 times) will be found. Might even offer illustrations, if the committee ever masters the html thing.

SO LONG, SIMON, THE WORLD'S THE GRIMMER FOR YOUR PASSING. A longtime BONG contributor and even greater contributor to the world of photography, Simon Nathan, died in New Jersey on May 19. He was 82.
Simon wrote books and columns for photo magazines and was famous for his homemade large-format camera. He never lent or rented the camera, always getting hired with it. Among his shots was the entire cockpit of a 747 jet for a corporate annual report cover, and the U.N. building for a postage stamp.
To understand the challenge of taking undistorted photos of big things, take two side-by-side pictures of a tennis court or something with a standard camera. Butt the prints together and see how parallax hurt you, squeezing the image at the edges. Simon, whose nickname was Simonwide, fixed that.
He told us once that a Japanese camera maker invited him all the way to Japan to critique their new wide-format model. A company exec brought their camera to Simon's hotel room. He picked it up, sniffed, and asked, "Well, could you possibly make it any heavier?"
Simon got 404 words by Art Lavietes in the May 31 New York Times.

AND IT'S NOT BECAUSE OF THEIR HAIR, THOUGH THAT'S A BIG PART OF IT. Our old friend Lena Olsson of Aftonbladet doesn't think newspaper people should appear on TV or radio; it inevitably sets off changes in their writing style. A sure sign that a columnist's ego is overpumped, for example, is when he or she starts inserting "But first, this important announcement" in copy.
The Professional Standards and Mama's Clippings File Committee agrees, except possibly when the columnist on his bass boat screams "Mayday! Mayday!" into the mike, perhaps followed by some data about latitude and longitude and maybe wave height and wind speed. But we've seen a lot of their work in print, so perhaps we shouldn't hope for too many facts.
But more to the point: Broadcast or print is a choice most of us make early. Some people like being clawed for free T-shirts at supermarket openings and aren't self-conscious about babbling or their noses whistling. Others want the convenience of slinking to the copy desk, hoping that the sweat beads on the forehead aren't too obvious, and begging, "Do you mind if I fix just one little thing please?" BONG sides with the slinkers.
But radio can be fun too. Our other friend Dan Lee, ex of the Arizona Republic, told of a Navajo-language radio station that sold some spots to the local supermarket. No one but a Navajo can speak Navajo (which made the Code Talkers of WWII famous).
Knowing that the guy in the booth moonlighted at a local meat market, the non-Navajo station manager hired another Navajo to listen when the ad spots appeared and report what was said. The overseer recited the content, which the boss compared to the script, and all was well. The boss was happy.
"And then he says," the spy added, "'And if they don't treat you right, come on over to the Winslow Meat Market and we'll fix you right up!'"

HELLO? HELLO? Sen. John McCain's office? Your Help Line, please. (Oo, nice Muzak. Is that the Osmonds? Great accordion!) Hello, Help Line, we were wondering, if Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., is so absolutely sure he doesn't want to join the Democratic ticket as vice president under John Kerry, and George Bush is already the Republicans' man, and Bush is bring along Dick Cheney for veep, well, why is non-vice presidential candidate John McCain jumping the case of U.S. broadcasters to put out more news about the election? What does he want reported that isn't out there? Hello? Hello? (Darn. They hung up. Almost sure that was an Osmonds cover.)

NOBODY WROTE THIS. Hang in there, byline strikers at the Wall Street Journal. Out here in the Outback, some in the newsroom wonder what a byline strike is all about. We don't tell them it's about unity of the union, and reminding management that we do the job every day because we're professionals, not because we like the boss's golf fables or the cake parties.

WILDCATTING. Kansas State University has found someone in-house to take the job of interim adviser to the school paper. Ron Johnson, the former adviser, is out of the job because someone didn't think the paper reported a campus convention with enough élan. The College Media Advisers' Board of Directors has voted to censure the university, discouraging its members from applying for the Kansas State job. As if anyone would want such a job, when there's so much stuff to do in the real world that's more fun, like retyping the tide tables or proofreading the lacrosse agate.
BONG is curious: Did the local Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury mention in its excited coverage of this drama that the student newspaper adviser, by law, has no story assignment powers, and campus career brawls are so dramatic only because there's so little at stake?

THEY REALLY DO TALK LIKE RICKY RICARDO. AND WHAT'S MORE, THEY KNOW IT. A Panamanian love interest sent this story:
Three handsome male dogs are walking down the street when they see a beautiful, enticing, female poodle. The three male dogs are speechless before her beauty, slobbering on themselves and hoping for just a glance from her in return.
Aware of her charms and her obvious effect on the three suitors, she decides to be kind and tells them, "The first one who can use the words 'liver' and 'cheese' together in an imaginative, intelligent sentence can go out with me."
The sturdy, muscular black Lab speaks up quickly and says, "I love liver and cheese."
"Oh, how childish," said the poodle. "That shows no imagination or intelligence whatsoever."
She turned to the tall, shiny golden retriever and says, "How well can you do?"
"Um, I HATE liver and cheese," blurts the golden retriever.
"My, my," says the poodle. "I guess it's hopeless. That's just as dumb as the Lab's sentence." She then turns to the last of the three dogs and says, "How about you?"
The last of the three is a handsome Panamanian dog. He gives her a big smile, sly wink, turns to the golden retriever and the lab and says, "Liver alone. Cheese mine."

A production of BONG Chief Copyboy Charley Stough, San Antonio Express-News. E-mail
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Coming out of the planning meeting. (What do newspaper managers mean by a "backout schedule?" Strikes me as a good way to get your butt scalded when you bump into a coffee-carrying committee lizard.) The Bar Tabs and Mass Communications Committee is thinking that the way of the future is blogging, not mailserving, especially since so many reader's servers are armed against spammers. And rightly so. But when the BONGer told me to quit putting exclamation marks in the BONG Bull title boxes because the firewall interprets that as junk mail, we saw the end coming. Darn, too. The committee was just getting interested in new ways to make their breasts bigger. Bigger!, I mean. And it's so difficult to get copy editors interested in anything.
So OK, a few more messages are probably all you're going to get. Then it's to your bookmarks and/or favorites button when stuff in your newsroom drives you to seek sanity on your own. Who knew BONG would ever become a daily?

Who didn't ante? There's stuff to decorate your cubicle, mantelpiece or rear-view mirror at and by spending a couple of bucks you'll tell the committee you care. Come on, it's cheaper than union dues and even if the nitwit slot schlub is slandering you all over the smoking porch and you wish you had a Guild rep to call in, at least you don't have to go to meetings.