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Eternal newspaper verities, a Throwback Thursday feature

In 2007, as I approached my twenty-first anniversary at The Baltimore Sun, I reflected on what I had learned during my years in what we used to call the newspaper game.

Never, never, never, never, never mess with the crossword puzzles.

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The paper was always better 10 years ago. (The late Harold A. Williams' The Baltimore Sun, 1837-1987 contains a reference from a reader in the 1880s to The Sun as "a once-great paper.")

The reader is always right, though not infrequently wrong.

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The worst errors will turn up in the big type. (Like pubic safety deputy in a headline.)

To a reporter, a 50-inch story is, by definition, twice as good as a 25-inch story.

The dumber the comic strip, the fiercer the loyalty.

A reporter, seeing a copy editor's deletion of an adjective or prepositional phrase, will react as if a chapter has been ripped from the Pentateuch.

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The assigning desk will move the copy on time only on a day before a national holiday, when everyone wants to leave early. The solution to improving copy flow is more national holidays.

Leave the crossword puzzles alone.

No reader cares how hard you worked on the story or photo or headline.

The printer will run out of paper just as you attempt to proof Page One.

The Associated Press Stylebook was not dictated to Moses on Sinai and does not carry the force of the United States Code.

The new editor will change everything. The next one will change everything back.

Belief that readers (or colleagues) read stories all the way to the end is a necessary delusion for reporters.

The name with the CQ mark (meaning that the reporter has checked the spelling and it is correct as stands) must always be checked.

The reader who spots the error you let into print after you caught 19 others will write to ask if anyone on the staff has been to college.

There is no such thing as too much coffee.

Your own errors will revisit you as you lie awake on still winter nights.

Don't even think about touching the crossword puzzles.

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