The power of the Internet is slowly killing an American institution — the daily newspaper.
In The Villages we still love our newspaper, but fewer and fewer members of the under-55 set appreciate that when newspapers finally disappear, we’ll lose more than a source of news and entertainment. We’ll also lose something very, very funny — and funny in places other than the comic strips.
Over the years, I’ve collected examples of laughable things from newspapers that are funny, even though the writers and editors didn’t intend for them to be funny. Many are goof-ups caused by typographical errors, sloppy writing and editing. Or … just plain stupidity.
Another great source of humor comes from writers who go overboard with prose. Years ago, I worked for a small-town newspaper with an editor who was a delightful man and a marvelous civic leader. Sometimes, though, he got carried away with the brilliance of his own words.
For example, he once argued in favor of a proposition by writing: “We must proceed forth in double-harnessed manifestation to the end so that same will be accomplished.” On voting: “There is considerable difference when the votes are counted in an entire state than when they are for one Congressional District only, and adding several thousands, coming from the overflow that reside within the borders of the Commonwealth, but who work in Washington and presently and in the past have been subject to Welfare State preaching.”
Sloppy editing can also lead to fun errors. For example, one story in the 1970s dealt with a “resolution recommending President Carter for the Nobel Peach Prize.” For a guy from Georgia, that’s certainly appropriate.
In show business news, there was a report that “Miss Garland does not exactly fit the image you have of the man Steve Douglas would marry.” What?
Headlines can occasionally make you stop and say “Huh?” One read: “Dead Soldier Apparently Shot At Man on Street.” I guess he was a tough solider. Another tough cookie was a Marine who, according to the headline, “Survives Fatal Wound.”
Perhaps my favorite of all the goof-ups was the heading on a column by famous advice columnist Abigail Van Buren. One day, her column was headed “Dead Abby.”
Dozens of errors create off-color statements or double entendre. The word “shot” is very dangerous for editors. There are several references to “sh*tguns.”
A headline referred to the “Power of Pubic Awareness.” A book review talked about an Antarctic explorer writing a friend and asking him to look after his wife: “I never met a man in my wife whom I admired more and loved more than you.”
Our very own Daily Sun carried an Associated Press story about a $190 million settlement against Johns Hopkins Hospital because one of its doctors was photographing the genitals of his women patients. The story said: “This could add up to thousands of dollars to women whose private parts might have ended up on the doctor’s hard drive.”
The Daily Sun also recently carried a grouping of several stories that had headlines such as “Surfer hit shark with board to stop attack” and “Drunk woman arrested, mistook jail for bar.” No problems with the stories, but they were contained under a heading that said “Recreation Schedule.”
One of the funniest — yet saddest and most regrettable — of my collection of bloopers deals with an obituary in the daily newspaper I worked at. A somber-looking man came into our newsroom one afternoon carrying a newspaper opened to the obituary page. He pointed at one of the obituaries and said, simply: “This isn’t right.”
The obituary dealt with a man whose survivors included someone stationed at an Army base in Alabama. It was supposed to say “Fort Rucker.” That’s not what it said.