Was droll Jim Romenesko having a bit of fun when he wrote this item? I think so:
Tori Daugherty’s complaint about the cursing in “All The President’s Men” got two grafs in Deborah Howell’s WP ombud column Sunday. The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel devoted 22 grafs to the 15-year-old girl’s appearance in the big-city paper.
Here’s the WashPost column. Here’s the 22-graf story-about-the-story. Here’s the part I noticed: A teenager is interested in working in journalism, but not if people are going to talk the way they did in “All the President’s Men.”
“I find it ignorant that a person who writes and a person who uses language would use language in that way,�? she said of the journalists portrayed in the film.
The story is unclear, but the chain of events seems to be: She saw the movie in journalism class, and brought her case for its offensiveness before the principal first. Unsatisfied, she then wrote to the Washington Post, demanding answers, because she’s considering journalism as a career but “I don’t want to be around (that kind of) language a lot.�? The ombudsman thought her letter was adorable and patted her wee head:
“Yes, Tori, many journalists curse,�? Howell wrote in The Post. “They curse when their computers break down, when people lie to them, when they make mistakes and when they’re on deadline. But usually, they’re nice to people…Please don’t think that cursing is a prerequisite to be a journalist. A promising young journalist who does not curse would be a welcome addition to any newsroom.�?
Awww, how sweet. When I read that, I knew that not only does young Tori have a future in journalism, she’s management material. In fact, she might as well just bypass the newsroom entirely and go straight to an endowed chair at the Poynter Institute. And then, as these incidents frequently prompt me to do, I took a trip down Memory Lane.
(Gilligan’s Island-style swimming-screen effects here.)
We had a girl like that in our college newsroom. She was a transfer, from a small Catholic girls’ college that couldn’t take her all the way to a journalism degree. Catholics speak of “formation,” the molding of souls and intellects and the rest of it, and this girl was well-formed, in more ways than one. You could have balanced a demitasse cup on her head all day, and it wouldn’t wobble. I recall her face held one expression, which suggested she had just smelled something offensive. And she had many opinions about her new school. I only recall one: That the deadlines in journalism class were impossible. The newswriting class was 90 minutes, and the way the drill usually worked, you got an assignment in the first half-hour, and then had an hour to write your story, due at the end of class. This was simply ridiculous, in her opinion; the nuns gave you a week. (Of course the class was structured this way for a very good reason — the ratio of assignments-that-must-be-finished-in-an-hour and those-that-must-be-finished-in-a-week is, for a beginning reporter, pretty lopsided. So you might as well get your practice before your paycheck depends on it.)
This was in the days before people felt the need to inform total strangers of their sexual history, but I’m pretty sure she let us know she was wearing the letter V and would be until her wedding night.
And the punchline: She was a faultless beauty. Blonde, clear skin, fine features. She could have stood toe-to-toe with Grace Kelly and not blinked.
She disapproved of swearing, too, which is probably why she wore that expression all the time, because the walls of our college newspaper office were covered with graffiti, much of it obscene. (There was a list of euphemisms for masturbation that covered a quarter of a bathroom wall and may have been the root cause of her distress, as it included the phrase “polishing the bishop.”)
Anyway, I don’t know if this story has a point or what, but as I recall, she really, really didn’t fit in, which could say as much about us as her — we were all pretty insufferable back then. But she still found a career in journalism. Believe me, I was shocked to discover this, but a few months ago I got an e-mail from my friend Deb, who as a fellow Catholic-school transfer took a particular interest in her, informing me that not only was our former classmate gainfully employed, she was …wait for it… a columnist.
I looked up her portfolio. She still disapproves of many, many things.
So be not discouraged, Tori. I’m sure your path through the dirty-talking portion of the newspaper business will be straight and swift. Columnists frequently have doors they can close and lock. Better yet, many work from home.
I never liked Joe Lieberman. I never understood the need for Gore to choose a “values candidate” after Clinton, as the voters had pretty overwhelmingly demonstrated that they considered what Clinton did forgivable. (If you were one of those upset by Clinton’s shenanigans in office, consider the alternative. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?) He always had that listen-to-me-the-orthodox-Jewish-sage thing going on, but in the end, a veep is always a shrug issue, for a voter — what can you do? No one votes for a veep.
I like him even less today. John Scalzi sums it up pretty succinctly.
I read Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” yesterday. I would add it to “On the Nightstand,” but it never made it that far; I realized I’d read most of it before in various magazines, and the parts I hadn’t read I consumed while making dinner. Wide margins, generous line spacing, not very thick to start with — you know the drill. That didn’t make it unenjoyable. I will always enjoy Nora Ephron’s essays, no matter what. When I was in that graffiti-smeared college newsroom, Ephron was my role model, and still is, in many ways. Her deft touch is one I’ve aped all my writing life, and I’ve never forgiven her for stopping for so long, to make all those awful movies (with the exception of “When Harry Met Sally…”). I guess she had her reasons.
That said, there’s no single essay in here that comes close to the best of her earlier work, but ah well, the book’s about aging, so you can’t really expect it, can you? Still, very enjoyable. You could do worse.