Saturday, April 14, 2007

BONG 689

The Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild's World-Famous Encyclical
No. 689
Copyright © 2007 by BONG
Reproduced by permission for all those needing an RSS feed

For April 12, 2007. One thing you have to say for newsroom committees is that it takes them longer to screw up as bad as Don Imus can in five seconds, and newsroom committees can always blame the copy desk, notes the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild, and this is BONG Bull No. 689!

The author of such as Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse 5 and Galapagos, who died this week, said this to the New Yorker for its May 16, 2005 edition:
"True story. Word of honor. Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.
"I said, 'Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 earned in its entire history?'
"And Joe said, 'I've got something he can never have.'
"And I said, 'What on earth can that be, Joe?'
"And Joe said, 'The knowledge that I've got enough.'
"Not bad! Rest in peace!"

TRUE CONFESSION. I want to apologize to any and all colleagues and managers I ever worked with in 35 or so years of daily newspapering. I'm an asshole. The truth only dawned on me while reading Robert L. Sutton's new book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.
-- I'm sorry I ever made such a fuss when a news story hit my desk with two of the five Ws missing and one of the other three spelled four ways. Clearly, I know I hurt the feelings of reporters and editors and annoyed them by waking them with phone calls to the bureau.
-- I was viciously insensitive when the school bus wreck story arrived 15 hours after the event but 15 minutes before press start and told how powdered window glass reminded the reporting team of a tropical beach at dawn, but omitted reference to injuries, costs or arrests. Certainly, I should have respected the committee's desire to soar.
-- I could have understood the earnest middle manager's need to feel like a mommy, but instead I quietly made all my deadlines without kicking, screaming, crying tantrums, even when my wastebasket was moved. I should have understood that the Dayton Daily News's human siren was not responding to the janitor, but to the boss's need to wipe bottoms. I should have sung at the thrice-weekly cake parties. I should have worn Hawaiian shirts on departmental Hawaiian shirt days. I should have hugged more. By Dayton Daily News standards, I was an asshole. Be grateful I was not promoted, but only started the Burned-Out Newspapercreatures Guild.
Which is not to say no assholes get promoted. According to Sutton, many assholes -- petulant, backstabbing, neurotic terrorists -- are in management, particularly middle management. They disrupt things, squelch good workers and cost companies money. They can sometimes be ignored, but more easily by oblivious superiors than by harried subordinates. I was going to offer my copy of The No Asshole Rule as a gift to the BONGer who best describes why it should be sent to his boss with a nice note. But there are just too many assholes in the world's newsrooms. So the offer is this: Pay $33 (the $22.95 book plus P&H) we'll slap a gift copy on whomever you say, worldwide, with a letter saying "Mutual friends hope you enjoy reading this soon."
Contact BONG Center,, for particulars.

ARTSY. I learned a lot on my lunch hours during my career-capping 5-year stint at Hearst's shop in San Antonio. Primarily, it was that the only 60 minutes of consistently intelligent conversation (or six minutes, for that matter) to be had in that building on short notice is in the art department. Not to pick on the Express-News; this squares with what I know of many other newspapers. And I came to be grateful that San Antonio's star columnists and newsroom executives so seldom talk at all, nor listen.
The art department also has the only all-weather lunch seats with a view which, even if only of some parking lots and the ugly wall around the Alamo, at least beats the rooftop lunch's deck of No. 3 gravel, on which walking is banned.
It was there that someone handed me a chunk of wax, and then got a casting of a nice little bronze frog -- cute little fat guy, overflowing his lily pad, croaking straight at the sky, probably wondering why there isn't more to life than sucking up flies and dodging snakes; I call him Frog in Prayer -- that I gave to my daughter. Back here in civilization, I found an Ohio metal sculptor who cast my 1.5-inch press cameras in pewter and bronze. See them here

Enquire at on how you may acquire one of these rare and valuable sculptures for yourself or as a wildly appreciated gift for some recipient who will adore you forever.
But wait! To complete the set for a truly distinguished journalist's lanyard, a personalized Chagrin Falls Commercial Scimitar Foreign Correspondent press card can also be yours for a mere $5 additional. Like other press cards, it's absolutely worthless as a symbol of privilege. But unlike other press cards, this one is signed by Typo de Wonderpig.

ARTSY PART 2. Meanwhile the Graphics, Redesign and Cabin Fever Committee
has made good use of the Ohio winter. Go here for a look at a painting in progress. When finished it will be 24x60 inches, acrylic on panel, and it's about the misspent life of a newspaper photographer.
Picture this: A rumpled, trenchcoated fotog with his camera, necktie loose and shoe untied, ignores the wonders he has witnessed. They include a flying galleon capturing stars in its net; a gazelle tending bar and angry about the damage; a committee of colorful giraffes, one of them in a green eyeshade, gazing about for something; fishlike creatures on wheels, caterpillar tracks, springs and legs emerging from the primordial ooze but only the ones with legs survive, except for the one with wings.
And, a volcano erupts billiard balls, a truck shaped like a tomato drives by, a fruitful palm tree's coconuts have udders; a mob of penguins listens to speeches at a political rally and some carry signs that say "Vot!" because penguins despise silent Es. Overlaying all is notation of a familiar circus march, Julian Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators," a tune usually associated with clowns.
But at stage center is the photographer, three days till payday, unimpressed and inconsolable.

QUOTING. "The stories in books hate the stories contained in newspapers, David's mother would say. Newspaper stories were like newly caught fish, worthy of attention only for as long as they remained fresh, which was not very long at all. They were like the street urchins hawking the evening editions, all shouty and insistent, while stories -- real stories, proper made-up stories -- were like stern but helpful librarians in a well-stocked library. Newspaper stories were as insubstantial as smoke, as long-lived as mayflies. They did not take root but were instead like weeds that crawled along the ground, stealing the sunlight from more deserving tales."
-- from The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly (Atria/Simon & Schuster).
Connolly reminds me of an old pal who became a press-hating Republican high school history teacher. So, I asked, when a citizen hears an explosion, sees a column of smoke and his commute is delayed for hours by a police cordon, he should call the local high school and ask for the history department? And after that he hated me too.
Anyway, Connolly is a weaver of a pretty good fairy tale. You're not. You can live with that. Some Republicans can't.

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: Delayed by a minor flap over a tab at the Bait Shoppe, the Deft Duo reach the newsroom buffet half a minute late and find most of the food gone or on the walls or upholstery. Typo intones, "Wow, Boss! Only 99 percent of reporters can sure give the rest a bad name."
PANEL TWO: Retiring to the photo lab, Speed makes a tablecloth of his trenchcoat, a deathbed gift from an ancient mystic wire service executive editor on a fog-shrouded eastern island, and watches Typo extract two preserved pizzas and a case of beverages from beneath the old print washer.
Typo observes, "Good thing we thought ahead at the last newsroom buffet, Boss! There's no reason the Copy Desk should be the only ones who know how to raid a caterer's truck!"
PANEL THREE: Speed wonders, "Gee, Typo, I would've thought the staff buyout would mean more food at the buffets!"
PANEL FOUR: Typo conjectures, "I'd say the food budget was a major reason for the buyout, Boss! Probably meant bonuses for a couple of those bean counters!"
PANEL FIVE: Typo continues, "...But then, they're the same business-side bozos who think they can make a lot of money delivering less news on the Internet, Boss!"

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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