COMMENTARY

Newspaper stories, because the world needs a breather

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It's been a slow news week even though North Korea's bloodthirsty dictator continues to disrupt the world and especially the United States. Kim Jong Un is dying for a confrontation with the United States with his nuclear threats. In response, President Trump is vowing to turn North Korea into a parking lot if they try to attack the USA.

All of the bluster and saber-rattling aside, we need a breather - the whole world needs a breather. I'll do what I can to entertain our readers as the weekend approaches. So I will write about my favorite topic: newspapers.

Many readers have asked me from time to time what it's like to work at a newspaper. I like to tell them it's like running a sausage factory - the process of producing pork for human consumption is messy, but the finished product is usually quite tasty.

The people who work at newspapers are quite interesting, if not somewhat demented, but they love what they are doing - most of the time.

Violent episodes sometimes occur at newspapers. I remember back in the day when the sports editor and ad manager engaged in fisticuffs after a disagreement over a news story. The sports editor mouthed off to the ad manager and the two men whaled away at each other in the ad department. There was little damage done. Both claimed victory in the tussle.

The same ad manager once made an insulting remark to a sales representative about an ad she turned out. The ad manager was a scrawny guy and the ad rep, who was a tall, strapping woman, slapped the ad manager around the room. He would later claim he got the best of her. By the way, I used to date his daughter. She was as feisty as he was. Our relationship was very brief.

Then there was the time when a loudmouth woman who worked in news kept seeing my father walking through the newsroom. This happened many times because The Boss wanted to see what was going on. One day, after my father again walked through the newsroom, the woman, who was not from the South, bellowed to no one in particular: "Who the hell is the little bald-headed bastard who keeps walking through the newsroom like he owns the place?" Of course, word of her eruption got back to my father. She was terminated with extreme prejudice the following day.

My father liked to fire people. He was a master at it. One day an under-performing circulation manager was called into his office. He wanted me to witness the carnage. After my father told him in no uncertain terms that he was firing him for doing such a lousy job, the former circulation manager took offense and claimed he was unjustly fired and threatened to take legal action against The Item. My father just shook his head and chuckled, telling the now ex-employee, "You know, Johnson (it wasn't his real name), if I had known you would make threats like that, I would have fired you long ago. Now get out of my office."

My father was also very skilled at handling fast talking sales reps covered in Aqua-Velva to pitch their products, such as press equipment, newsprint, typesetting machines, etc. He liked to have me present for that show. He would sit in his swivel chair behind his desk and listen quietly to the drummer's pitch, which extolled the product as the greatest thing since the invention of the printing press, and after the pitch, my father would ask, "How much?" Having gone through the Great Depression, father experienced hard times and was always suspicious of oily sales reps. So there would then be silence, and the rep would begin to get nervous and even sweat as my father stared at him without a word. Then the rep would quote the price. The staring continued, then my father would twirl in his swivel chair and start laughing, then turn to me and say, "Son, can you believe what you just heard?" Then he would address the rep, saying, "Thanks for dropping by but that price is way out of line and way too costly." It was not the end of the conversation. The sales rep would hem and haw and stutter that, "Well, maybe we can adjust that amount." They would invariably adjust the amount. He would always beat sales reps down until they were calling for the calf rope. I always felt sorry for those sales reps. Some almost looked suicidal as they left his office.

But that was just one day in the life of a newspaper.

It's not a job, it's a calling. Never a dull moment. Next time I may write about the reporter who wore a different wig every day - green, pink, orange, red or yellow. She didn't last long. And then there was a reporter who brought a secretary to work with him every day to take dictation. He was a former radio guy. He was crazy.

So there you have it for this slow news week. I've enjoyed sharing some stories for our readers from the sausage factory. Come again.