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Still more from The Old Editor

Latest tweets. The Old Editor says:

Kid, there are two places you want to stay away from when you write: gritty streets and leafy suburbs.

If you have to ask me when’s your deadline, you’re already late.

If you cover cops, try not to write like a cop. You know, "ejected from the vehicle." Like that.

If the AP Stylebook told you to jump off a bridge, would you?

Thinking about a career as a journalist? Plan on drinking too much, marrying twice.

If we thought you needed a life, we would have issued you one.

Your schedule stinks? You're talking to someone who's worked Saturday nights for the past thirty years.

We're not putting out a seed catalogue here, you know.

You can try writing drunk, but you have to edit sober.

Anything in 72-point Bodoni bold will look true.

Nobody’s going to read a story that has “still” in the headline.

In AP style, write the numbers one through nine as words, not numerals, except when you don't.

Don’t keep the good liquor where the staff can get at it.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:07 AM | | Comments (5)


ighaiYour admonition against writing like a cop reminded me of my favorite cop quote. During a trial, a cop testified, "I did detect the odor of alcohol about his person."

You say that nobody will read a story that has "still" in the headline. I submit that readers would devour a story under the headline "Actress still naked despite court order."

You mention "marrying twice." Your optimism is endearing.

You advise avoiding "gritty streets and leafy suburbs." Suddenly I wanted back in the business so I could write of "gritty suburbs." There are some these days.

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the editing room............

Hmm..... would that AP Styelbook inane challenge include taking the proverbial long walk off a short pier? Just askin'. (Jumping off bridges just ini't my style.)

Since I'm now pretty much a Left coast kinda guy, clearly I'd have oodles of options when it comes to choosing an accommodating "short pier". ( Let's see....... Redondo, Santa Monica, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Balboa island........ the mind boggles.)

But thankfully, those peevish AP Style-mavens don't really hold much sway in these here Pacific climes, where out here in LA LA Land, like a bowl of granola it's usually a laissez-faire, nuts-and-flakes kinda world. ("Hey dude, like what's "syntax" mean? Man, like i reckon it's somethin' like a tax on weed........but like dude, I could be s-o-o-o wrong. Wan't a hit, bro?)

The "drinking too much" and twice-marrying prescription for many a diehard career journalist sounds very much like the modus operandi of many a Hollywood journeyman animator, from back in the day; when Disney Studio's extremely gifted, cocksure "Nine Old Men", ruled the roost during theatrical feature animation's golden age. (I was a working background layout artist and character designer for all the major studios for almost 30 years----including Disney----so I have some insight, for what it's worth, into what makes the typical animation 'wrist', and their warped psyche, tick.)

Starting out in the animation biz way back in the summer of 1979 at Hanna Barbera Studios, I quickly clued into those fellow artists who either favored 'liquid lunches', or secreted a little flask of whiskey at their work desk; versus those, generally youngish colleagues, who were recreational tokers of the wacky-tabakky; and then the vast majority of creative colleagues who chose to eschew mind, or bodily altering substances, altogether. (Not that there's anything wrong with any of those choices.)

Back to Disney's "Nine Old Men". I'm fairly confident in claiming that the two most heralded of this exalted group of early Disney animators----the straight-laced, universally-admired, amiable, decent, most talented Ollie Johnston, and the equally revered, and gifted, Frank Thomas, were either mild drinkers, or perhaps even card-carrying tea-totellers (sp. ?); hardly your trademark booze hounds.

These two life-long best buddies, workmates, and longtime suburban next-door neighbors, first met as students working on a Stanford University humor mag. After graduation both went off to study at Chouinard Art institute in L.A., and then began their lengthly and illustrious careers in feature animation at the then-fledgling Disney Studios. Both were happily married to the same woman (Behave!........ not a threesome HA!) until their wives passed at fairly advanced ages.

Perhaps it's something about those pressing, never-ending deadlines, and having to produce consistently, day-in-and-day-out, at a highly qualitative level that drives many a newspaper man, dedicated writer, or committed animator to over-imbibe, and often leads to unhappy, troubled marriages, and messy interpersonal relationships. Just a thought.

What say YOU, blogging news gathering/ editing folk (or animators) out there in 'Media-land' and 'Cartoon-land', respectively. ?

I think I know what The Old Editor (and blog stalwart, Picky) would have to say. Be gentle.

May sober minds and hearts prevail.


First Lady's Rose Garden Still Raided;
Prez Caught In Love Nest with 'Singer'

Heck, I'd read it.

Back when I was a journalist and conducted headline-writing workshops, my handout mentioned the two situations when a headline can be viable despite containing the words "still" or "remains": when the still explodes in the holler or the remains are found floating in the swamp.

"Thinking about a career as a journalist? Plan on drinking too much, marrying twice"

Truer words were seldom tweeted.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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