Monthly Archives: December 2006

The copy editor’s lament

Every sub-editor cribs about having to chop stories to accommodate last-minute ads, update text, new pictures and fresh graphics. But has anybody ever cribbed better than George Martin? Courtesy


By George Martin

I was sitting on the copydesk
just watching o’er the scene
when the dealer sent a juicy
story over to my screen.
It had power, sex and politics and violence – it was great;
and the headline on the dummy said:
– 6 column 48.

So I rearranged the commas
and I tidied up the lede
and I patched up all the typos
and gave it one more read.
I typed in all the coding
and prepared to write the hed
when a voice came from the news desk,
and this is what it said:

“Pass me back that dummy, please,
I have to change the page.
Composing found a missing ad,
the foreman’s in a rage.
If they find the guy that lost it,
they’ll be skinning him alive.
And that headline that you’re working on …
– make that a five.”

Four columns? Well, that’s tougher
but a deskman does his best
to keep the story’s gist intact
and leave out all the rest.
I thought a little while,
and then my hands did fly
But just before the head was writ,
I heard the news desk cry:

“Pass me back that dummy please,
I have to make a fix.
It really needs a graphic
or the editor will bitch.
They’ll make it on the Macintosh
and ship it here to me.
And that headline you are writing …
– make that a three.”

Now a head that’s just three columns
forces choices quite absurd
do you write it as a label
or just use only verbs?
I struggled and I puzzled
and at last I did compose.
When over at the news desk
a voice once more arose:

“Pass me back that dummy, please,
I have to make a change.
How I forgot the sidebar,
is really very strange.
A page without a sidebar,
would make the reader blue.
And that headline you are writing …
– make that a two.”

Now a head that’s just two columns
is a challenge and a strain;
they often make no sense at all,
to write them is a pain.
I finally got a concept
but before I put it down
I looked up from my VDT
and saw the news desk frown.

“Pass me back that dummy, please
there’s one more thing to do.
We have to have a locator map;
the reader needs a clue
to where this all is coming down
and where it’s being done.
And that headline you are writing …
– make that a one.

Sometimes a copy editor
is like a cornered rat,
hemmed in and surrounded,
his hopes collapsed and flat.
There’s no way out, all one can do
is fight with tooth and claw.
This time ’twas so, and so I wrote:


The world’s oldest blogger is 94

Allan Loof, the world’s oldest blogger @ 94, has given an interview to Eric Shackle, the world’s oldest citizen journalist @ 87. No, Shackle doesn’t work for CNN-IBN, but for the website that is the pioneer of citizen journalism,

Read the full interview: World’s Oldest Blogger Recalls his First Christmas Presents

It’s not how you begin, how you end

From Lost for Words by John Humphrys (Hodder)


A gauche young man from rural Mississippi won a scholarship to Harvard. On his first day there he approached a couple of cocky young New England socialites.

“Hey, y’all, where’s the library at?”

They sniggered among themselves and one replied haughtily, “At Harvard we prefer not to end our sentences with a preposition.”

The young redneck thought for a moment and siad, “Okay, where’s the library at, asshole?”

Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards

There is just a week left for entries to be submitted for the Ramnath Goenka “Excellence in Journalism” awards for 2006-07. The award categories (print and broadcast) are:

Environmental reporting

Uncovering India Invisible

Business and Economic Journalism

Political Reporting

Excellence in Reporting on HIV/AIDS

Sports Journalism

Film Journalism

For more information, log onto

What’s your new year resolution?

It’s that time of the year once again. When we resolve to turn a new leaf and do better than we did in the year gone by.

So, what’s your resolution? To slim down, to write better, to eat right, to drink less?

Not sure? Here’s what the leadership faculty at Poynter recommend: New Year’s Resolutions for Newsroom leaders

Mixed metaphor bhath

Shane Warne‘s announcement of his retirement from the game has seen cricket writers employ every adjective known to man and beast to describe the beauty of his bowling. And Nirmal Shekar in The Hindu takes the cake and the bakery by talking of Mozart, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Yeti in the same breath as the Sheikh of Tweak. Read the full piece.


Shane Warne has “a brain in which the neurons fired away as in a hungry cheetah’s on a dinner run behind a springbuck.”

“There may be quite a few instances of such awe-inspiring tango featuring the human hand and an inanimate object in life itself Van Gogh and the paint-brush, Pandit Ravi Shankar and the strings of a sitar …”

“Warne virtually redefined the game at a time when world class leg-spinners were about as easy to find in cricket as the Yeti in the Himalayas”

“A raging cyclone of energy”

“To judge the Aussie genius on the basis of such numbers would be as big a folly as attempting to determine Mozart‘s place in the history of western classical music on the basis of the number of symphonies he wrote.”

How Britney Spears “K-fed up”

Slate is one of the more exciting webzines around, and The Explainer—a daily feature in which some mystery or the other is explained, like “Does the US President have to carry a passport when he goes abroad?”—is one of its most readable features.

But there are some questions from readers which even the whizes at The Explainer find it difficult to explain, and a few of the mystifying ones have been compiled on the site as part of its coverage of the year gone by.

Sample some of these—and go to Slate to enjoy the rest:

1) Why do train whistles at night always sound lonely and mournful? Not so in the daytime.

2) How clean is the bar of soap in a public bathroom? Is it “self-cleaning” since it’s soap?

3) When we are approaching another person, like in a hallway, why do we step to our left? That is, try and pass right-shoulder to right-shoulder?

4) If a group of passengers on a hijacked plane wanted to, cold they bring a plane down by all of them using their cellphones at the same time?

5) How can I tell if I was the first person to use the term “K-fed-up” in relation to Britney Spears‘ divorce?

6) Can you tell me how long it will take if you eat rat poison to see if it is going to affect? Please e-mail me back. Because my neice ate some.

7) Why did Zidane head-butt his opponent in the World Cup final? Do the French not fight with their fists?

8) What comes after 999 trillion?

9) Can someone be forced to masturbate?

If you don’t get this, you know…

Everyone thinks he knows how dumb President George W Bush is, but had anybody suspected he would be as dumb as the American stand-up comedian Conan O’Brien makes him out to be?


“Today at the White House, President Bush signed a deal that would send nuclear fuel and know-how to India.

When asked about the Indian deal, President Bush said, “It’s the least we can do after stealing their land.”