Remembering the journalistic icon known as our newsroom door

Yes, this is our actual newsroom door.

Yes, this is our actual newsroom door.

If you’ve been following this blog for less than a year, you probably don’t know our newsroom has a door. But wait! It’s not just ANY door. Over the years, The Door has become more than just a way in or out of the restroom, or something that occasionally gets “stuck” when our editor is on the other side. It has been a work in progress since the early 1970s, when it became a place for journalists to display the best and worst examples of headlines, typos, cutlines and correspondence they found. As a result, The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance) evolved into a journalistic Mecca.

A shrine.

A print media Wailing Wall.

And a place to ask that eternal question:

How did THAT make it into print without someone noticing?!?

In addition to its significance as a sentinel of journalistic history, it also contains enough tape, glue, wax and paste to withstand the blast-radius of a backfiring 1967 Volkswagen Beatle.

I bring this up because today is the anniversary of The Door, which was my first weekly feature on this blog. It had greatness thrust upon it each Tuesday for about a year. And let me just say that whatever else may have been thrust upon it over the years is a different matter entirely. Although I can tell you there are lipstick stains that remain ingrained to this day.

As I sat here sipping coffee and looking upon what is essentially a Smithsonian of journalism accompanied by the occasional sound of flushing, I thought it appropriate to look back at a few of everyone’s favorite entries on The Door…

Raising my mug to The Door from my vantage point behind my desk — and hoping no one uses the commode this morning.

Raising my mug to The Door from my vantage point behind my desk — and hoping no one uses the commode this morning.

This first example would fall under the “Shame” category. In 1994, it seemed headline editors everywhere re-discovered the many uses for the word “probe,” and how it can be used as both an “action” word or noun, depending on how it’s, um… inserted. And while most newspapers “probed” sparingly, one in particular appeared to relish any opportunity for a good probing. Here is a collection of headlines from The World newspaper in Coos Bay that appeared in print all in the same week — earning a hallowed place on The Door.

I'm hoping if anyone from The World reads this they won't be sore.

I’m hoping if anyone from The World reads this they won’t be too sore.

Warning: You probably won’t appreciate this next entry if you’re a fan of Dick Cheney. Then again, if you’re a Cheney fan than you probably have bigger problems.

What follows is from a 2004 article in The Washington Post, which was picked up from the wire service by the Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore.

The article, as it appeared in the Register-Guard newspaper. I especially like the added touch of having a tank behind Dick Cheney. Was that for effect or just part of his security detail?

The article, as it appeared in the Register-Guard newspaper. I especially like the added touch of having a tank behind Dick Cheney. Was that for effect or just part of his security detail?

I mention this because, to this day, it remains unclear whether the final remark at the end of this lengthy article was part of the original piece written by Dana Milbank, or added later by a copy editor at the Washington Post or Register-Guard. Either way, I draw your attention to the very last word in this piece because I think it effectively articulates how many of us were feeling at the time…

My guess is that whoever added this didn't keep their job long after that. Or was possibly promoted to senior editor.

My guess is that whoever added this didn’t keep their job long after that. Or was possibly promoted to senior editor.

To clarify, this entry would fall under the “Brilliance” category of The Door, although I’m sure there was plenty of “Blame” going on as well.

Whoever you are, Cheers.

This next entry shows that everyone makes mistakes — Even ME. No, it’s TRUE! (Next time, please try to act more surprised.) What follows is a photo that here in Siuslaw News last October, on a page I worked on.

Teachers showing their support for The University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers. Yes, those really are our team names...

Teachers showing their support for The University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers. Yes, those really are our team names…

Seems innocent enough, right? I mean except for the women kneeling in the front row making the Oregon “O” in front of their mouths. If you were thinking anything else, shame on you… but it gets worse. You should probably know that the mascots for our two local college teams are the Ducks and Beavers. Wait, it still gets worse…

image

In my own (weak) defense, the photo and cutline were submitted to us. However, given my years of journalistic experience, and factoring in a natural thought process my wife has often referred to as “naughty,” I’m surprised I didn’t catch that before it went to print.

I’m not saying I would’ve changed it, just that I should’ve seen it.

These next few entries are pretty self explanatory and demonstrate how the omission of a single letter can change the entire meaning of a headline — and possibly prompt a bigger turnout and some cases…

Apparently, there's more danger involved than I realized. Or maybe I'm not doing it right...

Apparently, there’s more danger involved than I realized. Or maybe I’m not doing it right…

This is from a syndicated religion feature that runs in our newspapers. Subscription rates increased by 75 percent the week this ran. Amen.

This is from a syndicated religion feature that runs in our newspapers. Subscription rates increased by 75 percent the week this ran. Amen.

This is why you should never enlist the 4H club to help with the entertainment.

This is why you should never enlist the 4H club to help with the entertainment.

I’m going to leave you with an example of brilliance, which is actually from the very first edition of The Door — and my personal favorite. To this day, I think it is one of the best headlines I’ve ever seen. In addition to doing what a headline is supposed to do, which is sum up the point of the article in one eye-catching moment, the editor also recognized the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the circumstances presented: Police in Forest Grove breaking up a drug ring operated by the three brothers — Tou, Soua and Yeu — who share the last name “Cha.”

The only thing keeping this from true perfection is the incorrect use of the possessive word "Sheriff's." The editor was probably too excited to notice it should have been "Sheriffs.

The only thing keeping this from true perfection is the incorrect use of the possessive word “Sheriff’s.” The editor was probably too excited to notice it should have been “Sheriffs.

For now, The Door will remain on stand-by, maintaining its dual role as sentinel of journalistic history and guardian of commode users. It will patiently await its next entry, whether it be newspaper clipping or IBS sufferer. In the first case, you will be informed immediately of any new developments; in the second case, it’s highly doubtful.

If you simply CANNOT WAIT until then (and who could blame you), here’s the link to the archives of The Door. Please remember to close it behind you if you plan on using the commode.

Just a reminder: This Friday’s NWOW (May 2) will be a stop along the #mywritingprocess Blog Tour. Joining me this week are Nic DiDomizio of The Nicolas Blog and Bill Pearse of Pinklightsabre’s Blog. As I mentioned Monday, the #mywritingprocess Blog Tour asks four questions about each blogger’s writing process. The answers, which are made public, may surprise you — depending on how they spell “public.”

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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55 thoughts on “Remembering the journalistic icon known as our newsroom door

  1. I would read my local newspaper way more often if I saw these sorts of things on a regular basis! The exception would be the incorrect possessive. As an English teacher, those sorts of things assault my eyes.

    • Haha! I completely understand about the possession issues; I can’t even watch movies about possessed people. We have a mortician in town and his last name is Burns. He insists on calling it Burns’s Riverside Chapel.

      Drives me nutso 😉

    • HaHa! I understand the place was packed. For 10 minutes or so, until there were no teats to be found.

      And yeah, as crazy as it is and as underpaid as we are, I would miss the T & E around here.

      Thanks for reading, Matt. If you’re ever looking for a newsroom job in Oregon, I can do some probing for you.

      • The appropriate response is a joke about beavers (the mammal) and buttholes (the insulting name for bad people) in Oregon running for the woods!

        But I’m trying to keep things classy.

  2. Seriously…how else were you supposed to handle the beaver mention? She couldn’t have simply brought her beaver. Perhaps an adjective describing the beaver as a mascot? But even that sounds off-putting. You simply couldn’t win this one.

    • I actually ran into her later that week and told her the same thing. She was a good sport about it, especially after I asked for suggestions on how I could’ve made it sound any better. After three or four minutes of starting and stopping several beaver-themed sentences, she conceded it was a no-win situation. I told her if they do it again next year, I’m not getting anywhere near her beaver.

  3. That’s hilarious Ned! I especially liked the “Cha, Cha, Cha” line. Ha! I sometimes peruse the paper to check out articles that are published either adjacent or on opposing pages. These can also be quite funny if linked together. Like an article on dangerous driving with an ad for a funeral home nearby (at least you’ll know where to go for the final help). Or an article discussing the continual breakdown of the police car fleet with an ad for Ed’s Garage (did he do this with sloppy work or is he trying to get police business?) Your Door is a great invention, and a reminder for all concerned to keep an eye out.

  4. Somehow, I managed to hold it together until I read “Cha, Cha, Cha.” Then I just started over and limped my way back through hysterical tears.
    OMG..laughing my a$$ off (see what I did there) and just don’t think I can recover. I’ve read snippets of your clippets in other posts, but seeing them all together is completely cruel to my insides. I simply can’t stop laughing. Thank you, sir. May I please have another?

    • The “Cha, Cha, Cha” is — and forever shall be — my favorite headline. So glad you had as much fun reading that homage to The Door as I did putting it together. There were many I’d forgotten about.

      I may have to order another round at some point.

  5. I’ve always been fascinated by the art of writing headlines, but I never thought that they could be so entertaining! – or maybe I haven’t been paying much attention to them at all! Haha

  6. Now that Jay Leno has stopped doing Monday night’s “Headlines,” at least I have this. I have been doing what’s tight for years. Who keeps a stuffed beaver on hand anyway? I’ve seen a lot of homes with taxidermy trophies, but not beavers.

    BTW, we have a clothing shop around these parts, and I can hardly patronize the store on principle because there are signs plastered across the walls and doors, which read, “Jean’s half off, sweater’s two for one, purse’s on sale.” Perhaps people think that if they always add the possessive s, instead of a plural, that it will be correct. Like people who always say, “Just between you and I,” thinking it sounds uppity and British, so it must be right.

    • I know what you mean about Leno; that bit made Monday’s bearable…

      HAH! I was just testing you with the “Monday’s.” Anyway, I would have to fix that sign. Sort of like a crooked picture on the wall.

      When I was a kid, my mom got me out of the habit of saying “Me ‘n’ David…” by always stopping me to say, “Oh, I didn’t know David was mean.” Then I would tell her he wasn’t, and she would reply, “But you said Mean David…”

      *eye roll* “I meant, David and I…”

      I use it on my kids, too.

    • I know what you mean about Leno; that bit made Monday’s bearable…

      HAH! I was just testing you with the “Monday’s.” Anyway, I would have to fix that sign. Sort of like a crooked picture on the wall.

      When I was a kid, my mom got me out of the habit of saying “Me ‘n’ David…” by always stopping me to say, “Oh, I didn’t know David was mean.” Then I would tell her he wasn’t, and she would reply, “But you said Mean David…”

      *eye roll* “I meant, David and I…”

      I use it on my kids, too.

  7. Didn’t appear pubic/public ‘cockup’ on your site before?;)
    Great read as usual. Stuffed beavers and doing it tight, those are the kind of things that make a morning paper worth its weight in paper:P
    I’ve been meaning to backtrack your posts from before I was aware of your existence for a while, but much like your book, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I therefore am one of those persons who, up till now, was oblivious to the fact the news room had a door. Will check that out soon!

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