Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

July 25, 2012

Newspaper folks need a sense of humor

By Keith Kappes - Publisher
Journal-Times

July 25, 2012 — Despite the grim matters we see each day, I believe it’s important to show my readers that newspaper folks appreciate humor, even in self-defense.

For example, did you know the great Mahatma Gandhi once said that he believed in equality for everyone – except reporters and photographers?

Former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson obviously didn’t like us because he said:

“Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction.”

And old Adlai is the same politician who uttered these words about our profession which are posted in our newsroom:

“Journalists do not live by words alone, although sometimes they have to eat them.”

A political consultant asked if I realized the power of the press, even at a community newspaper.

I told him that I wasn’t sure that Napoleon was describing us when he said that four hostile newspapers were more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.

Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman is reported to have said of the press during the Civil War:

“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.” 

President Lyndon Johnson had many tussles with the media.

He was quoted as saying the mere fact that a man was a newspaper reporter was evidence of some flaw of character.

LBJ also supposedly said that if a reporter from a certain Washington newspaper saw him walk across the surface of the Potomac River, the story on Page 1 would be that the President couldn’t swim.

Reporters historically have been accused of being cynical. Legend has it that this question sneaked into a newspaper’s job application:

“If you saw a man drowning and you could either save him or photograph the event, what kind of film would you use?” 

Often I am introduced as the editor of the newspaper. I then note kindly that I am the publisher, the editor’s boss. And then I share how some wag once defined editor:

“An editor is the person employed by a newspaper whose task is to separate the wheat from the chaff and then to make sure the chaff is published.”

Those whose names and faces appear in the newspaper react very differently. My favorite reportedly came from movie actor Billy Bob Thornton:

“I was the fattest baby in Clark County, Arkansas. They put me in the newspaper. It was like a prize turnip.”