Inside the news meeting

The Baltimore Sun recently began a live Webcast of the daily news meeting in which editors present the day's top stories (check for it at at 3 p.m. on weekdays). I'm not a regular attendee of these meetings, so don't fear you'll click in and accidentally hear me listing the sports offerings for the next day's paper.

However, several years and a few editors ago, I normally represented the sports department at the news meeting. These were usually quite serious affairs with talk of important stories being filed by the metro staff, the Washington contingent and our former foreign bureaus. And it only took me a little while to figure out why the foreign editor always seemed to have a story called "safrica." Ohhh, that was from the South Africa correspondent. South Africa, S. Africa, safrica.

The sports report was viewed as something of a respite from the weighty matters of the world, so even if I wasn't quite comic relief, I could try to lighten things up a bit.

If the editor corrected me when I referred to the Middle Eastern owner of a Triple Crown-contending horse by pronouncing his title as "sheek" instead of "shake," I could try to recover by saying he was a "chic shiek."

To mock how sports long has been considered the newspaper's "toy department," I would occasionally fill my report with the kind of old-time sports jargon associated with sportswriting and sports broadcasting, to the amusement of several of the great journalism minds in the room. For example, I might reference "the taciturn tender of the initial hassock." That, of course, was Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray. In trade talks, the Orioles might be seeking a "guardian of the hot corner," a "web-fingered fly-catcher" or perhaps a "wily southpaw to toe the slab." In October, we might have a "pivotal Game 4 of the Fall Classic between the Senior Circuit's Queen City Nine and the Junior Loop entry from the Bay Area."

And then there was the time I was speaking of something or other and referred to it as the "greatest" or "biggest" or a similar word. The newspaper's editor had recently been on a campaign to rid our pages of such superlatives, which he felt were being thrown about too carelessly. He informed me of his concern about such usage and said I probably missed a meeting the week before in which the matter was discussed. Without thinking, I replied: "Was it our best meeting ever?"

Somehow, I kept my job.

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