As a favor to a friend, I’ve recently spent a great deal of time judging a state high-school press association’s annual journalism contest. (This is part of the reason I haven’t blogged much lately.) Most of what I read was painfully sincere and dreary, but since it wasn’t written for me (I left high school in 1978), I didn’t hold that against the contestants, judging instead more or less strictly according to the enclosed criteria.
However, I did come across two papers at which at least some staffers appeared at least as intent on having fun as on padding their college applications.
One included the following note on its masthead (not the place on the front page where the paper’s name appears, as people often think, but the box on the editorial page that lists senior staffers, editorial policy, contact info and so on). It starts in deceptively standard fashion, but …
Notice: [Paper name] is the official student newspaper of [school]. Opinions expressed in the paper do not necessarily reflect those of the school, faculty, sponsor, or even the people who wrote them. The rules of free speech are ignored when invoked by student publications, but [paper name] has been known to “bend” these rules when the appropriate situation arises. Letters to the editor are encouraged. Letters to the editor can be any length, including 117 words, and may be written about any topic you choose. [Paper name] reserves the right to edit letters for grammar, length, slander, spelling, and just for the fun of it.
One thing I wonder about is the significance of a letter to the editor of precisely 117 words. An inside joke? A number that is a multiple of 13? A randomly selected number that sounds funny because it doesn’t end in a zero? Who knows? It just sounds funny.
The other thing that tickled me, and gave me hope for the future of the newspaper industry, was a photo package in a different newspaper that purported to show some of the more interesting or unusual cars belonging to students. At the bottom of the package was an empty, white rectangle bordered in a thin, black rule, accompanied by this cutline (caption): “This is where a photo of [student name]’s [vehicle description] would appear. However, it was unavailable to be photographed due to ownership complications.”
Man. I bet you could write a half-decent film script about the “ownership complications.”