November 16, 2006


Thank you those of you who missed Motherlode on Tuesday. Both of you.

Newspaper layout is predicated, obviously, on space. The page Motherlode appears on is called the 'Living' page, and it is indeed a single page. On that page each Tuesday I must share my leg room with Dear Abby, the horoscopes and usually some feel-good piece featuring a smiling baby, a woman who's found the perfect exercise program, or a puppy who learned not to chew shoes.

Given the general nature of newspapers these days, I do not complain. I rarely get my words cut, I sometimes get a photo from the file, and I am generally left alone to do my thing. This past Tuesday, I got blown past because it was National Nice Week or something like that. I was not feeling particularly nice when I found out this had usurped me.

But I got over it. I'm kind that way. My memory is also going, so it's a general all-around win for everyone.

Then today I read in Slate something that just dredges all the pain right back up. In a tale harking back to the 50's, the piece contemplates the war editors have waged with space (not that kind, print space) since the advent of papers. They do an indepth look at the always fascinating 'bus plunge' pieces.

You've seen them. A headline announcing a bus plunging off the side of a mountain in some country you may have heard of, maybe not. It gives a brief death estimate, and that's pretty much it. News stories that are complete in 2 or 3 lines. The piece explains they used to be used as filler to extend longer articles that fell short.

The examples are hilarious, with all due respect to the dead. They are actually the same story over and over, for decades. There use has risen and fallen with changes in how we print papers, and as editors have found new ways to convey the news, set the standard, and most importantly fill any holes they couldn't get an ad for.

The piece quotes one editor who says his all-time favourite news story, the entire thing, was "Most snails are both male and female, according to the Associated Press". That's it. Ain't simplicity a beautiful thing?

Maybe my next Motherlode will start with that line. Then if I get cut down, it won't matter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed your column- how dare they cut you. Glad you blog most days - need my daily "fix' of humour & common sense. Thanks for all your efforts. Sandie (the Avon lady)

November 16, 2006 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed your column too, but thought you were away or something.
Keep up the good work!!

November 16, 2006 12:33 PM  

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