Thursday, February 03, 2011

The arrogance of hitting the big leagues while still twenty-something





"You write too well for us.
"Zippy writers are shat upon at the Globe & Mail."

Well, I must admit the copyeditor knew how to decline the verb "shit."

You've got to pay respect where respect is due.

A big league copy editor, or Slot Man, is a rare specimen in the newsaper business. He is the poet of typography. It is under his supervision that
copy is checked and double checked, the headline produced in a jiffy in the sparse space left by all the ads and photos. He is neither Wordworth nor the Dirty Old Man of poetry but he knows what fits, fits into the designated blank.... Subject, verb, object.

Oh how many poets, thinking they were hot stuff, looking for a creative job--have been shat upon by the Slot man, the poet of typography-- for being too zippy, too creative to be content with the tabula rasa of subject-verb-object when composing a headline. There could be no variations to the rule. Dog Is Bitten by Man. Period. You can't be cute with headlines at the Globe.

Says the Slot Man.
"We back into headlines around here, no matter how strange the even. You go 'Dog Bitten by Man.' If you want to be zippy, go across the street to the SUN."

Ah, the SUN was a honey for zippy headline writing.

Imagine if Dr. Suzuki were to air a documantary about Peoria, Wis., and the rurals didn't like what he had done and the headline writer only had one column inch of white space and four lines down vertically to describe
the rural folks' distaste.

The SUN would prbably do

Hix
Nix
Stix
Pix

But not the Globe....Subject, verb, object:

"Peorians unhappy with documentary on rural life."

Ah, backing into headlines.

On the day I got laid off, I suggested they all back up into lighbulbs.

Maybe with a scrappy Twentiish personality like that, It was no wonder.


Well, laterr, as a Toronto SUN man, I was still full or rancor.

I composed a letter to the Globe, each paragraph starting with the letters below:.

F
U
C
K

O
F
F

E
V
E
R
Y
B
O
D
Y

T
H
I
S

M
E
A
N
S

Y
O
U


Lucky for me, I tore that rant up.


But lookie here: As of this year, The Globe has just taken on a Tabloid format!

New generation.

New paper.

"Man Bites Dog."


Well, dog my cat!

Christ, I want back in!

Eve if I look like Yoda now.

23 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never written for a newspaper, at least nothing regularly. I have done a column for a "newsletter." it's a very different kind of writing. I enjoy the discipline. but then, I guess that sounds a little kinky. And maybe you've got a be a bit of perve eh? ;)

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Charles,

Me sort of pervy?
Well, I did suggest to the Globe editors at the time that they should all back up on lightbulbs.

They rehired me ten years ago. By that time many of them were women.

For some reason (though not recently, as you can see by my photeo above) :)lady editors were easier to get around.

TomCat said...

Ivan, I imagine such plain vanilla headlining would you creatively constipated, or in Globe and Mail format...

Headline Still Unshat

SY said...

very cool
we are always searching for something more interesting.. very 20 something indeed

ivan said...

TomCat,

How about me having a breakdown, giving up the profession to take up a new career as rapist.

Nut
Bolts,
Screws.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Sy,

I finally got what I wanted, the cottage and the typewriter, a lakefront property where i could do my novel, and...

White paper syndrome.

Maybe the grass was too green? :)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Sounds like: "Bitten Dog by Man" or "Man-Bitten Dog."

I lasted one semester as a journalism student. Didn't fit it in with the non-ethnically diverse crowd, or the non-diverse ethnic crowd. Your pick. Your choice. Pick. Choose. You. Not me.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Non-ethnically diverse crowd?

I once taught at a college that seemed a zoo.

Ah, if I only knew what the gnu knew.

Let's see now.
I need to get back to looking up things, right from the Alpha to the Omega.
Start with Aardvark.

benjibopper said...

Not a fan of that new format myself. All flash no substance. But you gotta admire The Sun's brevity. No one can write a 500-word story like Sun writers. A former Sun writer was my mentor and boss for a while. Wrote incredibly long press releases knowing they would result in very short news stories. Prevented all those pesky questions. Taught me a lot about the news biz.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Chris (Benjibopper),

I have had a look at the new, narrower Globe.

You're right. It looks prettier, but kinda short on substance.

Those SUN writers were good. I was proud to be among them, though I was lucky enough to get a column for the old Sunday Sun...Then I could write what I pleased, though there was that training--to write as if there were a paper shortage. ..Write so tight it almost squeaked.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

The latest installment of my 'Benjamin's Talking Head' video series is now online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8SnDGJ_fgs&feature=feedlik. In this installment my head discusses the writing process behind Drive-by Saviours, and compares writing fiction and nonfiction.

My latest column is also up at http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/sustainable-city/Content?category=957826. I take a look at waste in the construction industry, specifically in the deconstruction and demolition side of things.

Lastly, please take a look at the jazzed up website for Drive-by Saviours at http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/drive-by-saviours.php. I've added a lot of really great photos and some video from the book launches and tour.

Happy reading and viewing!
Chris
--
Check out images from Chris' book launches and tour at http://www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com/drive-by-saviours.php

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

You are on a roll!

A vid, even.

I have often thought of making a video of my The Fire in Bradford, but I ain't got the skill. You need a visual sense, and I'm a word freak.

benjibopper said...

Thanks Ivan. I'm not so visual myself, just had someone videotape me and ask questions. I also did a trailer for the book using still photos I took in Indonesia and music my brother composed. [See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COQ1KYZUY-g] If you can find someone half decent with a camera it's not hard.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Got a woman pal in Australia handy with a camera, Pam.

But the poor girl is now handy with a periscope in Victoria.

the walking man said...

Old Dog Once Swatted Back for Another Bite.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Yep. Hoping to take a chunk out of the Globe again. :)

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