Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fertilizer in the Garden, by George

My good friend and former colleague Victor writes a blog critical of the newspaper at which we both used to work. Exhaustive research on the Internet has led me to the sobering conclusion that there is no statute of limitations on a non-disparagement clause in a separation agreement -- a common practice in this down newspaper economy -- and so I have had to refrain from making comments on his blog on an occasion or two.

Today I was reminded of a rule that was clad in iron when I worked at the paper. The newspaper had in its readership area what likely was a close also-ran when they selected the Seven Wonders of the World: The George Washington Bridge. If you worked on the copy desk and wanted to have your head handed to you, you would insert the phrase "by George" in a headline. The copy chief begrudgingly allowed one usage of "by George" per copy editor per year, which met with little opposition.

That newspaper was on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. New Jersey's nickname is "The Garden State." So today, after New Jersey lost some 20,000 jobs in the latest Labor Department report, Victor took issue, rightfully so, with a teaser headline on the front page that announced "Jobs not growing/ in Garden State." His issue, however, was with the fact that the paper failed to acknowledge its own role in the weak employment market that has plagued the state for the past three years.

My issue with the teaser headline is the same as my former supervisors' issue with headlines playing on the phrase "by George" and the George Washington Bridge. I mean, Garden/grow, to quote my favorite sportscaster Warner Wolf, "Come ooonnnn!"

In the Garden State, that would be a cliche. In a previous post I defended the use of cliches in headlines. I still believe they're okay. Which is why, in a case like this, I would opt for the "one Garden State/grow" headline per copy editor per year.

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