Monday, December 11, 2006

BONG Bull 685

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 685
Copyright © 2006 by BONG
Retransmitted by permission for anyone desiring an RSS feed.

For Nov. 28, 2006. Memo to Miami Herald: When guns are outlawed, only cartoonists will have guns, and even the ones who don't know the executive offices are empty on holiday weeks can be mildly dangerous. The problem is that they think victims of violence exude a few stars and then pop back in the next panel; not even randy TV preachers are that dumb, says the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 685!

ELECTION RETURNS. Rush Limbaugh flops around in imitation of spastic during the campaign, and then makes his flip-flopping official when he voices thanks he won't have to lie about THOSE Republicans, the ones who lost elections, any more. Fox News swivel-chairs through all its fair-and-balanced "analysts" Newt Gingrich, Ollie North and Mr. Coulter, and even Laura Ingraham has screeched her carefully timed dismays.
Happiness abides, if not in Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt's 2nd District of Ohio at least in the real world. The election is over. Hoo-friggin'-ray.
Now let's get us an agenda.

PAGING KEN STARR. Congress shouldn't have a problem getting up another $40 million. Let's investigate stuff. Let's see the menu: Oh, Dick Cheney's energy cabal, that's a good starter (is it too late to get a fat tax break on a Lincoln Navigator?). The Halliburton is fresh. The lobbyist selection includes casinos, pharmaceuticals and mock Christians.
Maybe we can get the House Ethics Committee to entertain with their innovative new act, with the majority party telling the minority guys where the meetings are held.
Oh yes, Kenny, we need the Ken Starr style of unbiased, goes-where-it-may nonpartisan investigation. This Fitzgerald boy and his spy-outing probe is sincere, but only a Starr probe has as many exciting leaks from the caravan! Come back from academe, Ken Starr! Oh, you're at Pepperdine? Well OK, make that come back from the basketball court!

YAHOO, GOOGLE. All right, towel's in the ring, burnouts have lost, pay off your bar tabs and head for the pasture. Hundreds of newspapers have plugged in with Yahoo and Google to share "content, search and want ads." Meanwhile, Romenesko reports newspaper layoffs and buyouts coast to coast.
Remember those 20-Mule-Team Boraxo pictures? Think 9-mule-teams now.
So be it.
Would it be rude to remind publishers about those silly "local news is our franchise" speeches? Well, if not, keep the reminder handy and we can bash them with it again. Remember to include:
-- Any columnist who used the term "my mother" more than twice in a lifetime cost newspapers thousands of subscribers.
-- The availability of two consecutive pages in the paper doesn't mean you can fill it with blather about some pol getting a seat on the turnpike commission, even if it does clear seven pounds of trash out of a file. Readers who flip past double-truck stories saying "Yeah, yeah, where's the news?" are not lifelong readers.
-- I recall a late-arriving story about a school bus wreck that said the glittering glass shards in the street looked like a tropic beach at dawn. It was late arriving because a committee had been at it all day and half the night. Luckily, it needed a trim and the tropic beach hit the crapper. Lacking fact about injuries, traffic citations, repair costs, driving records and such detritus, the pages of the Dayton Daily News weren't going to turn kids in ambulances into a postcard on my watch.
I got yelled at and yelled back, not that it mattered either way. The "team" on the "project" couldn't be coaxed to follow up with facts, such was their pique. Oh well. And I left the paper eventually, too soon to yell again when a similar team exposed unsolved crimes against Peace Corps volunteers in Africa and South America 20 years ago. It just tickles committees to forge phony issues out of government-supplied tapes. Readers wondering about unsolved crimes in Dayton last week aren't impressed with FOIA make-work computer games.
In Dayton we're the only family on the block who subscribe to the daily paper. Presumably the remaining crew, after the buyout, will find their lost readers again in Google searches and Yahoo want ads.

SPEAKING OF CAREER STARTS. Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez describes in his memoir "Living to Tell the Tale" how he, a young law student in Cartagena, Colombia moonlighting as a newspaper reporter, met the advance man for a circus in 1948. The man came into the newsroom and stripped off his shirt, about as usual in Cartagena as it would be in Kansas City. The startled staff were mesmerized by the many scars, like concrete, on the man's back. He was the lion tamer.
Garcia Marquez resolved to join that circus, and he would have gone if the ship bringing it hadn't sunk in the Caribbean. Only the stranded, heartbroken lion tamer was left alive.
Garcia Marquez stayed a student for a while and a writer for a while more.
My career started as a copyboy when there still were copyboys, before the shameful indentured slavery of internships came to delight newsroom managers. It was a hapless new daily called the Arizona Journal in Phoenix, 1963. The night staff was me, sometimes two sports guys, a homosexual couple formerly of the New York Daily News as copy desk, and a city editor named Bob Temmey.
My pay was $1 an hour, or $31.05 after taxes per week. At shift start on payday everyone raced to the bank across the street to get the cash because we never knew when the money would run out.
Temmey drove a heroically trashy '58 Corvette ragtop, with emphasis on the rag, and one day asked where he should go to get an Arizona driver's license. "I gotta get it by Monday so they can take it away from me
Tuesday," he said. He was ticketed doing 102 on the freeway, he said, "but I was going faster than that."
On the day the paper finally went under I didn't see Temmey, but one of the deskers tucked a typewriter under his arm in lieu of a paycheck and left. I never him or it again.
Maybe 20 years later I saw Temmey's byline in the National Enquirer on a short story about seedless watermelons. I called the Enquirer. They wouldn't admit they knew anything about him but said they would forward a letter. Yep, that sounded like him all right. I wrote but never heard back.
I wanted to tell my old boss hello, and I didn't learn a single useful thing at that paper. But as in every newsroom I ever saw, I knew I was JUST THIS MUCH CLOSER to the circus, so it was worth it.
Over the years in Dayton I met lots of reporters who went to other things. Some strutted noisily off to big cities like New York, where they vanished. Some became college profs. A few rose in Cox management, another form of vanishing. One or two became flacks. One took a middle management job at Wal-Mart. One became an airline pilot. He's the only guy whose motives for leaving the business I understood.

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 rides the lonesome prairie on his trusty palomino F-Stop accompanied by his pal Typo, in the buckboard pulled by his mules William Randolph and Lord Black, somewhere west of Nag's Head as Typo opines, "Well of course, Boss, the politicians stumping for family values are the guys who have had more families, so they should know!"
INTERPANEL SILHOUETTE: Two arrows pierce Speed's fedora, with popout letters reading THHHWIP! THHHWIP!
PANEL TWO: As the deft duo crouch behind the wagon, Typo counsels, "Don't worry about F-Stop running off, Boss! He won't get any more lost than we are! Let me see those arrows!"
PANEL THREE: Typo declares, "Hmm, just as I thought! Look at those markings! The Fox tribe is off the reservation, Boss! We have to get to town and warn the settlers! But first, let's get a fire started! And help me get that sweaty priceless Persian rug off Lord Black's fleabitten hide! We're cracking those yahoos' password and sending a dispatch!"
PANEL FOUR: As a band of naked savages scatter frantically over a distant bluff, Typo calmly reboards the wagon as Speed adjust his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, and asks, "What did you say in that smoke signal, Typo?"
PANEL FIVE: Silhouetted in the setting sun, Typo shrugs, "Oh, just that the O.J. manuscript, Sean Hannity's border town expense claims and Bill O'Reilly's phone logs have fallen into MTV's hands and they're calling their new reality show 'Real World Fox News,' is all. And as for F-Stop, Boss, he's like all junior managers! When we get to town, we'll find him four beers deep in the Bait Shoppe!"

BONG Bull is the product of Chief Copyboy Charley Stough in Dayton, Ohio. E-mail for any reason. Or what the hell, for no reason.

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