Jan. 10---- Carl Sandburg
Almost from the very start I've been ragging on editors. I used to have a vulture sitting on my desk and around his neck was affixed a sign that said simply: "Editor."
Pretty funny right?
I once affixed, at the top of my newsroom computer monitor, a homemade bumper sticker that declared "I don't brake for editors!" but I decided that was a little too much and got rid of it.
Still funny, though.
People often ask how I get away with making fun of a group of colleagues who are in fact considerably higher than me on the newspaper food chain.
"I see you recently referred to your editor as 'a blasphemous, conniving, malignant editing creature five times meaner than a Hell-spawned scorpion in my shorts,'" they will say. "Do you still have a job?"
My shame is great. Over the years, I've accused various editors of being cruel and heartless tyrants. I've accused them of being black-hearted fiends from vile dimensions (see: "blasphemous, conniving, malignant editing creature five times meaner than a Hell-spawned scorpion in my shorts"). I've accused them of being out to get me personally.
All in good fun, you know.
The fact is, I actually like, admire and appreciate just about every editor I've ever worked with. When you write fast in the heat of deadlines, a hawk-eyed editor will save your bacon by detecting and fixing embarrassing errors. It happens all the time. Editors have the magic to make bad writing good and to make good writing better.
When they're not sending you off to do stupid stuff, that is.
The problem, you see, is that a reporter seldom gets good news from an editor and there are just so many examples of this.
"We're going to need you to cover the Biannual All-Day Senior Pudding Contest" is one.
"Hey, look! An inch and a half of snow! Drop that triple murder you've been working on and write us a weather story!" is another.
"No, you can't use #$#!!#! in your story even if it's in quotes" is a third.
So, you can see how I've suffered.
Editors have been known to cut words out of stories that a reporter believes should be left in. Editors are always curtailing your sly attempts to get semi-dirty terms into your copy (see the "but it's in quotes!" argument). If you're a lowly reporter, an editor is always telling you what you can do, what you can't do and what you should be doing differently.
Every assignment that comes my way comes directly from the mouth and half-mad mind of an editor. That time I had to dress up as a $!!#@! elf and go hang out at the mall at Christmastime? An editor made me do it.
The time I was made up as a clown and all the kids were mean to me at the circus? An editor made me do it.
Same with the time I endured a three-hour lady makeover at one of the salons. And the time I was forced to sport bright orange Crocs and go for a walk in downtown Lewiston. And the time I wore a Snuggie to a high school football game and oh, the abuse I took over that one.
Maybe I take a shot at the editors now and then, but as you can plainly see, I pay for it.
The other problem is that in the news business, pretty much everybody who is not a reporter is an editor of some sort. You've got your city editors, your managing editors, your assistant managing editors, your audience engagement editor and your full-on legion of copy editors, God bless their alleged souls.
I'm pretty sure the guy who comes in to put sandwiches in the vending machines was given the title of Managing Editor for Pre-Packaged Food just so he, too, can lord over me and order me to do stupid stuff.
At the very top of the heap, we have our top dog, and you'd think that we could just call her the Big Cheese, the Head Honcho or something benign like that, but no. She's the Executive Editor and even with such a lofty and dignified title, she won't hesitate to hit me with a weather story or send me out in public wearing something goofy.
Editors have all the power around here and my relationship with them has always been a kind of half-assed (bet an editor takes that out) rebellion against parental authority. I'm like a 14-year-old all up in here who suddenly gets it in his head that he can take on his strict and overbearing old man. But since a 14-year-old bonehead has no real power to speak of, all of his feeble attempts at rebellion are reduced to muttered cheap shots and hastily crafted insults.
Which I will admit is still great fun.
So, yes, I will occasionally refer to an editor as a "barbaric vampire who's only motivation is to devour the tender souls of a good-hearted reporter." I may occasionally suggest that they are joy-sucking ghouls, hollow-Earth demons or unholy cannibals of the written word, but in the end it's all friendly fire.
Ultimately, I consider just about all the editors I work with friends, and good friends at that. Strange as it may sound, if I didn't like them, I wouldn't torment them with my drive-by insults the way I do. It's all meant with great affection and with the abiding respect I have for their craft.
Except for that vending machine guy. I consider him a soulless goblin of the dankest underworld abyss. Other than that, we're all good.