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A column here, a column there


Last updated 3/10/2010 at Noon

A column idea is one of those things you never get when you need one.

But you always seem to have a steady supply when you’re not looking.

I’ve heard that repeated quite often in the news business (mostly by me), but thanks to some new guidelines by a respected journalists’ organization, I shall never have to worry again.

The furor began a few months ago, when famed cowboy humorist Stump Langley, writing in the Omaha Tribune-Times-Express-Democrat-Republican-Independent, published a piece about his days as a cattle rustler in the early 1930s.

“It probably weren’t no good to hide all them critters in the public library,” Langley mused. “But we was young, and didn’t have that smart book-learnin’ like at them fancy East Coast schools.”

The National Book Committee praised the work, nominating it for the most apostrophes used – ever, ever, ever.

However, the American Association of Newspaper Columnists took issue with it, saying the Huck Finn rip-off was not up to current U.S. journalism standards.

So the group issued a statement citing examples of the so-called pitfalls of “column-ism,” in an attempt, it said, to “get everyone on the same page.”

So these are ways NOT to begin a column. I provide them here as a public service.

– “When will that church in the middle of town stop playing the “Big Ben” chimes every hour? Why couldn’t it be ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’?”

– “I was starting my annual ‘Charles Manson for President’ campaign, when it suddenly occurred to me that Gore WAS right about global warming.”

– “Luke, I am your father, which is why you should check out the great deals at Stan’s Boat World.”

– “Marge, if they can put a man on the moon, you’d think somebody could make a decent cup of coffee.”

– “Hello. I’m Gerald Ross, your new editor of the Times-Post-Dispatch-Express-Chronicle-Statesman-News. I’m kind of new around here and wondered where all the X-rated theaters were.”

– “I’ve started a file on the Liptak murder case. It’s in my lower, right desk drawer, next to the bottle of Johnny Walker Gold.”

– “Forget Sinatra. Forget Elvis. The greatest entertainer of all time is, without question, Frankie Valli.”

– “Man walked on the moon what year? Was that in the ‘90s? Hey Tony! Look that up for me!”

The association added that it was probably a bad idea to cuss in a family publication. 

It also mentioned that if you start a column with any of the above, your next offering might begin with, “I heard this really funny story in the unemployment line the other day ... ”


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