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Devil's Style Book

By John Osburn (with apologies to Ambrose Bierce)

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 newsroom staff.

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 Boulder, Colorado.

This article originally appeared in Sources, 25th edition, 1990.

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