Devil's Style Book
By John Osburn (with apologies to Ambrose
Beat n. field of expertise COVERED by a REPORTER who
is not expert in it.
Byline n. The means by which a REPORTER renounces
all personal responsibility for the content of a newspaper article.
Corporate adj. functioning as n. An aloof quorum
of high priests, residing in a distant city and gifted with a clairvoyant
knowledge of the multiple and special needs of diverse communities.
Corpse n. A photo opportunity.
Cover vt. To place something upon or over, so as to
protect or conceal.
Editor n. The chief cause and enforcer of deadlines.
Journalism n. A mode of political discourse now practiced
solely in the Soviet Union.
News n. Something that has happened before.
News hole n. A portion of the printed page insufficient
for the whole news.
New York Times, The n. The primary publication of
the principle American city, admired out of all proportion to its
actual quality by newspaper EDITORS, thereafter who instruct their
REPORTERS never, under any circumstances, to produce an article
similiar to the one that might typically appear there.
Opinion n. A means of putting in one's own words
the prevailing views of the establishment.
Paragraph n. obsolete, now considered vulgar. An abstract
concept unknown to the modern EDITOR, reputed to have been three
sentences in length.
Personnel n. A department of the modern newspaper,
requiring numerous employees, necessary to administer layoffs of
Publisher n. 1. archaic. One who publishes.
2. An advertising salesperson.
Reader n. 1. archaic. One who reads.
2. A sports fan.
Reporter n. 1. archaic. One who reports.
2. An obscure functionary, COVERING a BEAT.
Story n. Any of the various levels of the building
in which CORPORATE resides.
USA Today n. The primary publication of the nation,
derided and sneered at by newspaper EDITORS, who thereafter instruct
their REPORTERS to imitate its every aspect.
Write v. obsolete. To engage in an esoteric rite concerned
with the creation of PARAGRAPHS.
John Osburn is the former arts editor of the Daily Camera in
This article originally appeared in Sources,
25th edition, 1990.
Sources, 489 College
Street, Suite 201, Toronto, ON M6G 1L9.
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