Suffering from Writer’s Wrath

Mar 24, 2011 | 10 comments

The Once-Upon-A-Time Oysterville Jail

     I’m enjoying writing my current series on “Behind Bars in Early Pacific County” for the Chinook Observer.  However, I’m NOT enjoying what happens to it once it leaves my hands and gets to the newspaper staff.  This week, inexplicably, my article was left out of the paper entirely.  Only the two sidebars were printed — by themselves and without the main article.  I am not a happy camper.
     A “sidebar,” as its name indicates, is a short article enlarging on part of a main news story and printed alongside it.  Run by itself, it makes little (if any) sense.  As in “what’s your point?”  Having a sidebar printed under my byline – with a picture, no less! – was simply idiotic.      When I called to complain, the editor apologized and mentioned (again) that the paper’s photographer is now doing the layout each week for the second section.  This is not the first time that my articles have been given short shrift by said photographer – usually relegating them to a much less important place than whatever photo essay is running.  But, at least, the articles have been run intact.  Until now.
     I’m sure the better part of valor would be to button up about it.  It’s probably a lot like that old saw about complaining to the chef about your meal:  next time, perhaps, he’ll spit in your soup.  So it may well have been my previous complaint about placement of an article that has given me yesterday’s result:  no article at all.  I wonder what will happen next week.
     In a more perfect world, both my article and the sidebar would be run in the next issue, insuring that both would make sense.  They are, after all, meant to be read side-by-side.  I was told, however, that though the main story would run next week, it is highly doubtful that the sidebar will be run again.  In other words, suck it up, Sydney.
     I was also told, however, that very soon after the series ends, the articles will be put into book form.  This is the third time that such an eventuality has been mentioned.  We can but hope…


  1. David McColm

    Seriously, I have to wonder what Readers think about an Editor who would run a “Sidebar”, without the article it was submitted to run alongside? That’s just BAD editing, akin to running a photograph, with no supporting article! The editor in the early 90’s actually “succumbed” to “Reader pressure”, and overwhelming response to my LENGTHY “Letters to the Editor”, and created a “Guest Column” for me. There, of course, were complaints from detractors, who didn’t like the “controversial/theological” content of my back-n-forth with George Crosta, so the column was eventually eliminated (between me and Mr Crosta), but that’s what sells copy! I would think your articles would generate interest, and sell newspapers, even generate out of town subscriptions?

  2. Skyler Walker

    I have a friend who is a brilliant copy editor, and who might be moving here (if she can find a rental that would take her and three cats, preferably, she says, on or near high ground!). I have long felt that The Chinook Observer desperately needs a good copy editor.

    • sydney

      Good luck with that idea! As far as I know, there is no copy editor on the staff though at one time Jan Bono volunteered her services to go every Tuesday night to Astoria (where the paper was printed) and read copy. She often worked until well past midnight and then had to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to teach the next day. It was a thankless task as I remember her telling it As I understand it, the paper can’t afford a copy editor position.

  3. MaryBeth Kelly

    I paged through the paper looking for the continued part.

  4. Patricia Staton Thomas

    It’s entirely annoying, and way too common. How ironic that the writer is always the lowest on the publishing totem pole.

  5. Jan

    Oh, but do I FEEL YOUR PAIN! When my “Just Joshin'” book came out, the same said photographer/layout/moron person ran the article down the edge of the paper, one column wide, reduced the photo to postage stamp size AND cut off the part about the booksigning that Sunday altogether! When I called to complain I was told I should be grateful for the “free publicity”, but there was NONE, since the entire event was axed!! To top it off, same said you-know-who had a full 8 by 10 picture of a man walking in a storm, as seen through a window (I refer to these as “arsty fartsy photos”) taking up most of the page! And did you notice last week all the white space setting off his work? AAARRRRGGGGHHHH…. You really got me chomping here, Sydney!!

  6. Rick Newton

    This is becoming quite interesting, a photographer is left to decide how the layout is done for an entire section of the paper that includes his own work.
    Perhaps a call to the publishers office would shed some light on the situation.

    • sydney

      Actually, in this case, the editor IS the publisher so I have, indeed, made that contact. Tricky, eh?

  7. Diana C

    Maybe a bit of competition?
    The North Beach Chronicle… perhaps?

  8. Flora Gardener

    That is what my friend was once told: that there was no budget for a copy editor.


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