Sunday, June 12, 2011

Getting a headline right

Years ago, I was the late guy one night at our newspaper. The late guy would look at the third edition of the sports section; if there was an error, he'd fix it on the fly, without the press being stopped (thus saving money).

In the past, I'd found anything from screwed-up copy to incorrect mug shots to a second-edition page being in a third-edition paper.

This time, I detected a headline with Roman numerals, and it had one too many numerals. Rather than send the page again, a waste of time and money, I went to the back shop and told the guy back there that I needed him to find the film for that page, cut out the extra letter, slide the rest of the headline over and tape it in with red tape. No big deal. You couldn't tell the change.

The boss for the department, Mr. Jones (not his real name), was there for some reason — this was about 2 a.m. — and he wasn't being cooperative. He said that, no, he wasn't going to do it. It wasn't that big a deal.

We argued a few minutes. I knew there would be an explosion at the morning meeting if it wasn't fixed, so I said flatly, "So what the (expletive deleted) will happen when Mr. Smith (the managing editor, whose name has been changed to protect everyone) reads the paper and asks me why I didn't fix it? I'll have to tell him that you wouldn't fix it. Who do you think he'll come to?"

Mr. Jones fumed a moment, found the correct film, cut out the headline, slid it in correctly and taped it in. It took maybe 15 seconds. The whole operation, counting the argument, took maybe 10 minutes. Without the argument, we could have gotten the fixed film to the pressroom in a minute or two.

But it worked out. Funny thing, but I had a better relationship with Mr. Jones after that. And I never told Mr. Smith about it.


(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
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More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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