Wednesday, May 31, 2006

... Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet

The Scripps National Spelling Bee wraps up today, and you can catch it on TV. Continuation of the fourth round will begin Thursday at 11 a.m. Central time on ESPN. ABC is carrying the championship rounds starting at 7.

Who should you watch for?

Five students in this year's bee have been there at least three times before:
  • John Louis Tandy Tamplin, 13, of Louisville, Ky., is going on his fifth bee. His highest finish, last year, was 11th.
  • Katharine Close, 13, of Spring Lake, N.J., is also in her fifth bee. She tied for seventh last year.
  • Rajiv Tarigopula, 13, of St. Louis is in his fourth bee. He finished fourth last year.
  • Nidharshan Subra Anandasivam, 12, of Brownsville, Texas, is in his fourth bee.
  • Samir Patel, 12, of Colleyville, Texas, is in his fourth bee. He already has a second- and third-place finish under his belt.
Samir was wearing an adorable shirt today that belongs in the T-shirt post.

Want to find spellers from your area? Check here.

And if you still want more spelling bee news, read Throwing Things. They are live-blogging the spelling bee. Here's an excerpt:
In the pantheon of spellers, Samir is at the top. If spelling were Hollywood, Samir would be Will Smith -- young, charismatic, just self-deprecating enough to make it okay that he knows his own greatness and exceedinlgy adorable to the public mainly because his ears are too big. But Hollywood aside, between you and me, I'm worried about Samir. The Bee is prime time this year. The media's built it into an EVENT. The good people over at ABC have already filmed a special profile on Samir. There's pressure.
They're also running a spelling bee pool.

All this talk had me wondering what Rebecca Sealfon -- the hand-whispering euonym-shouting 1997 winner -- is up to these days. Wikipedia says she majored in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton and is now pursuing a PhD at Duke. I believe it. Someone also dedicated a Web site to her.

I also found this quiz:

Which Famous Dork Are You?

You are Rebecca Sealfon. You know, that spelling bee girl. That whole spelling into your hands thing is really frickin weird.
Take this quiz!

Not to put too fine a point on it ...

At Blogspot, Bill Walsh has a lesson on when to throw the stylebook out the window and let reason be your guide.
We are editors, yes, but we must be writers as well. And sometimes a stylebook ruling or a factual correction conflicts with the goal of presenting prose that sounds as if maybe, just maybe, it was written by a human rather than a machine.
He includes three examples with the original copy, the catch, the rimmer's fix, the slot's problem with the fix, a better solution and final thoughts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Once more, with less feeling

CJR Daily wonders why the New York Times omitted a swear word from a quote by Gen. Tommy Franks about Douglas Feith, a former Pentagon official.

Here's the quote as it appeared in Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack" in 2003: "I have to deal with the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth almost every day."

Here's the partial quote in the NYT from May 24: "Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army, the top commander of the Iraq invasion, once referred to him as 'the stupidest guy on the face of the earth.' "

By omitting fucking without ellipses, the Times has misquoted Franks (a problem that could have easily been fixed by starting the quote at stupidest instead of the).

But CJR Daily would take issue even if that problem was fixed.
We have been deprived of the full force of Franks's rage. Yes, we still get that the general doesn't like the bureaucrat, but "fucking" is such a taboo adjective that his decision to use it even when talking to Woodward, the administration's most faithful stenographer, shows just how much he wanted to make his contempt for Feith public.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A complex compound modifier

Garlicky Pork Sausage Stuffed Crisp Fried Maryland Soft Shell Crab [Language Log]

I'd have thrown in a few hyphens, but you get the picture.

Friday, May 26, 2006

5 T-shirts you should own

This bad-luck Scrabble T-shirt is available here.

I saw the Washington Post's Anne Ferguson-Rohrer decked out in this shirt at ACES.

Nothing rhymes with orange. (Sadly, this shirt is out of print. But Threadless occasionally reprints if enough people ask.)

Some of you may have seen me sporting this button at ACES. I also have the T-shirt; I bought them here.

This Threadless shirt is out of print, too. Damn!

Know of any other good ones?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Premier vs premiere

From Gawker:
We were pleased over the weekend to notice at our local magazine stand the first issue of Martha Stewart’s new Blueprint magazine. And we would have been even more pleased if she’d been able to hire some premier copy editors for her premiere issue.
People try to take issue with the distinction in the comments at Gawker, to little effect.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quick hits

The Washington Post's latest "Off the Beaten Career Path" feature is on lexicographer Erin McKean. (The piece is written by copy editor and career advice columnist Mary Ellen Slayter.)

Bill Walsh hashes out possessives after a mess of complaints on the Post headline "The Case of Roberts's Missing Papers." That's the funny thing about style, folks. What's wrong at the Dallas Morning News may not be wrong at the Washington Post.

John McIntyre covers the common errors seen with comprise, crescendo, podium and it's.

Jan Freeman has the results to her usage poll a couple of weeks ago in her Boston Globe column. ("One of those people who has"? Arrggghhh!)

I've been checking in periodically to the Double-Tongued Word Wrester, "a growing lexicon of fringe English." A couple of my favorites among recent entries: the verb pixie, "to practice sabotage as an expression of environmental politics," gone pecan, "a person who is doomed, defeated, or beyond rescue; a goner" and mail it in, "to perform in a cursory or sub-standard manner." (I'd used mail it in before I read the entry; I've used gone pecan since I read the entry, and pixieing? Well, maybe I'll have the chance to use it someday soon.) (I should also mention that the site is run by Grant Barrett, who works at Oxford University Press with the aforementioned McKean.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

America's Next Top Copy Editor

Here's another recap from the ACES conference, this one on how to be "America's Next Top Copy Editor," presented by Ron Smith (deputy copy chief at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Jackie Jones (director of Jones Coaching, a writing, editing and consulting firm) and Doris Truong (copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post).

This presentation was chock full of helpful tips -- ways to stand out as a copy editor, be it from raising your profile or improving your work.
  • Get to know you co-workers and peers. The better you know a writer, the better he'll take your suggestions on his stories. Introduce yourself whenever possible; try to have face-to-face interactions when time and schedule permit. Attend budget meetings. It will help other newsroom leaders to know that you're not a copy desk clone, and it will make you see them as people, too.
  • Compliment others' work. Praise fellow copy editors' headlines out loud, so your colleagues can hear. Point out well-written stories (or even a well-turned phrase) to reporters. Truong suggested CC'ing the writer's boss in the e-mail; the next time the writer has praise for you, she'll be more likely to return the favor. (And the next time someone sends you praise by e-mail, consider CC'ing your boss when you respond. Our supervisors always hear about our mistakes; they're less likely to hear about our successes.)
  • Present your questions professionally. Try to ask them all at once; it will save you and the line editor time. And don't just point out a story's problems. "No one has hired us to be Roger Ebert -- thumps up, thumbs down," Smith said. Have solutions ready. Show how; don't show off. And do some research before you query. There is such a thing as a stupid question. Don't be afraid to ask, but make sure the answer wasn't in yesterday's paper.
  • Own up to your mistakes. Copy editors' credibility is paramount; there's a reason we live by the motto, "First, do no harm." But when we edit in a mistake, it's important to apologize. Swallow your pride and tell the reporter or assigning editor what happened. Saying "I'm sorry" really does work.
  • Volunteer. Taking ownership of a project no one else wants (voters guide, anyone?) is a good way to lighten your boss' load while increasing your profile. "Or, if there's a big project that you weren't asked to edit, raise your hand to do the proofing," Truong said.
A couple other quick hits:
  • Be careful what you put in writing, even in notes mode on a story. "Are we libeling this guy?" is not a smart way of communicating the problem.
  • Offer a spoonful of sugar with your medicine. Smith said the Journal Sentinel copy desk sends the newsroom a good lede of the week followed by a style note. It's popular, he said, because people check there for praise and come away knowing a new rule.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Department of Veterans Affairs

It's the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, not the Department of Veteran Affairs or the Veterans Administration.

(The Veterans Administration became the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

AP style update

AP style now calls for using "HOUSTON" as the dateline from the Johnson Space Center instead of "SPACE CENTER, Houston." Here's the full entry:
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

Formerly the Manned Spacecraft Center. Located in Houston, it is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s principal control and training center for manned spaceflight.

Johnson Space Center is acceptable in all references.
In datelines:
See John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Fake headlines

Create your own newspaper clipping.

I know, it has some flaws. Still, there's plenty of fun to be had.

Go here to make your own.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

All punned out yet?

The public editor at the San Antonio Express-News addressed the ban on headline puns again in his column Sunday (last six grafs).

A Chicago Tribune columnist got a little too punny about the news in his blog.

Language Log has a related piece on what's a pun and what's not.

Words at Work's post says such a ban is shortsighted. There are stories that cry out for a pun in the headline. "Who will risk Rivard's wrath to write something humorous and risk being publicly identified as immature by the boss?" the post asks.

Brian Montopoli, in CBS News' Public Eye blog, lists recent punny headlines there and asks for feedback: Do they work? (Warning: All are puns on names; they're from a feature on interviews with other CBS News workers.) (Remember Montopoli? He used to write for CJR's media blog. He wrote that piece on the bad puns in headlines after Anne Bancroft died.)

Across the pond

A Brit's opinion of American journalism:
When it comes to working in American newsrooms, British journalists have found distinct cultural differences. Annette Witheridge arrived in New York as a News of the World reporter and noticed that her use of shorthand was considered a "novelty", as the skill isn't included on most journalism courses in the US. She also says that reporters don't clean up quotes as they would in the UK; and sub-editors "don't really exist".

"They're called copy editors and seem to concentrate on headlines, which explains how confused, badly written stories constantly appear in the US papers," she says.

Fact checking is routine in US news offices — and after New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was discovered to have concocted countrywide stories from his Brooklyn apartment, it's no surprise to discover that this is even more rigorous.

Tanith Carey, who started as US editor for the Daily Mirror, says it's the biggest adjustment she had to make when entering the American workplace.

"The amount of checking and re-checking of stories that goes on to make sure every single fact is 100 per cent accurate is something they take that very, very seriously on US publications," she says. In magazines it's not unusual for reporters to file full transcripts with complete sourcing, which story editors then write up and research departments check.

I just love that quote: "They're called copy editors and seem to concentrate on headlines, which explains how confused, badly written stories constantly appear in the US papers." It belongs on a mug. Or a plaque. Or my forehead. (But, please, not on a job review.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ban on headline puns

I went to Bob Rivard, editor of the Express-News, to clear up some questions after he put a moratorium on puns in headlines.

The big points:
  • His memo came "only after many months of unsuccessful efforts to temper the work of some of our headline writers and after months of listening to and responding to a steady drumbeat of complaints from readers."
  • It applies to all copy editors on all desks.
  • He does plan to lift the moratorium, but first "we need to give readers some space and relief while we recalibrate our system of checks and balances on the various desks."

Here's his full response:
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on our recent decision to declare a moratorium on puns in headlines in the San Antonio Express-News. It's been interesting to read the postings on your blog and others around the country. Some misassumptions, notably that the Express-News has issued a permanent ban on puns, suggest some clarification is in order.

The memo that Bob Richter, our public editor, excerpted in his recent Sunday column, does read a bit harshly for those unfamiliar with what came before it. It was meant as a wake-up call and it is working. We aren't head hunting or focusing on disciplinary measures because we believe editors will abide by our directive, which applies to headline writers on all desks.

I wrote the moratorium memo only after many months of unsuccessful efforts to temper the work of some of our headline writers and after months of listening to and responding to a steady drumbeat of complaints from readers. In brief, efforts by senior editors to improve headline writing were not yielding the expected results and in some quarters were met with resistance. Perhaps some copy editors do feel demoralized in the wake of the memo and the attendant publicity. The general morale at the Express-News is very good; it's something we work hard to maintain. I can tell you about droves of readers demoralized again and again by the use of puns in headlines on serious stories; poorly-executed puns in general, and worst of all, section fronts that barrage the reader with multiple puns, as if no single editor were reviewing the sum of our parts.

I could speak with pride about our strengths here at the Express-News, and that would include some memorable, award-winning headlines, but the art and craft of headline writing remains an area where we have much work to do. I have issued few mandates in my nine years as editor, and pride myself on the open, collaborative culture here. It's worth noting that we did not place a moratorium on the use of creative language in headlines. It's the often groan-eliciting word play that we are attacking. In time, I am sure, we will lift our moratorium, but first we need to give readers some space and relief while we recalibrate our system of checks and balances on the various desks.

Thanks again,
Bob Rivard
Richter, the public editor, told me Wednesday that the reaction from readers has been split 50-50. In his ombud blog, he included some of the responses (including one from my favorite Australian, Paul Wiggins). Here are a few:
My wife and I have been turned off for a long time by the amateurish "heds" running in the E-N. I cannot imagine that management let this go on as long as it did. — Jack Mynier


The piece on wordplay in headlines was interesting but I thought it was inappropriate that so much detail from an internal memorandum was aired. — Paul Wiggins, a copy editor and page designer, Homebush, Australia


Mr. Richter, you were right about one thing — copy editors are underappreciated and unnoticed (and usually underpaid, but most newspaper employees are). They work late at night trying to fix mistakes, fill in holes and clarify facts. These anonymous wordsmiths find their fun in an occasional play on words. As long as the pun isn't lowbrow or vulgar, what's the harm in allowing the copy editors a smile or two as they race to put the paper to bed?

If you really want to make a change in the copy editing room, please teach them how to write a caption without using the trite phrase "as John Doe looks on." That should be banned before puns.

Incidentally, there was a grammatical error in your column, Mr. Richter. It should be "Here are two" not "Here's two."
— Chelsea Caivano


Ouch! Editor Robert Rivard can put a sting to his e-mail but he is absolutely right. I wouldn't like being the 'victim' of a clever headline, especially if I were laid up in a hospital. You probably wouldn't appreciate it either. A note to Mr. Rivard though: Please don't take the pun headlines away from the sports writers. Please. They are the bomb. Thanks. — Anonymous


I love puns. But OK, keep puns out of the paper except for Sports. They are some of the best! — Anonymous
People love their sports puns. And I find them to be some of the most appalling I've ever seen. What does that say?

Related reading:
A headline flap [ACES message board]
Death penalty [Testy Copy Editors]
San Antonio bans puns in headlines [Visual Editors]

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The all-important L

The new book "Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws" was reportedly recalled after a misspelling in the foreword by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Despite these remarkable changes, and the major progress women have made in obtaining equality in the workplace, our pubic policy institutions have not kept pace.
(Via Wonkette)

UPDATED: Of course, the book's publishers aren't alone. Newspapers make this mistake all the time.

He leaps mall building in a single bounce

Comic-Book Superrman Impervious To Copyediting [The Onion]

All the language columns you can stand

Just in time for the Kentucky Derby, Nathan Bierma's latest language column in the Chicago Tribune covers familiar phrases that have a horsey background: across the board, hands down, shoo-in and many others.

William Safire's On Language column gives a history of heck and damn -- and complaints that the president is overusing both of them.
We have a language anomaly here: the euphemism is taken to be offensive, while the harsh word being avoided -- in Bush's case, and with apologies to the sensitive or reverent reader, hell -- is presumably more acceptable.
Why all this dancing around the swear words? Does it have anything to do with the rise of the religious right? "As lefties would say, damn right," writes Safire.

John McIntyre has a post at You Don't Say about prescriptivists and descriptivists. There are bow ties involved.

And I just love Jan Freeman's column this week, on usage points in transition. She includes a survey to find out what readers would prefer (not what's necessarily considered "right"), and when you're done you can see the results. Thousands have taken it so far. (I was usually in the minority with my answers. Most of these I'm willing to let go, but No. 8? What's up with that?)

From James J. Kilpatrick, you can find a few examples of flowery writing that may deserve to be left alone. (Would your finger hover over the delete key on bentness? Totally in the dark?)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

ACES conference photos

There are a ton of updates at the ACES conference sights and sounds page.

Check out hundreds of pictures, taken by Jeff Pierron, Michelle Brandon and Doris Truong. (Hint: They're compiled at Flickr, which means you can leave comments.) You can find more pictures taken by Philip Blanchard, Jenny Butler, Deirdre Edgar, Amanda Edwards, Christine Steele and Doris Truong.

It includes several movie and sound clips, including the performance of "It's Hard Out Here on the Rim." Here's the chorus and one of the verses:
You know it's hard out here on the rim (you ain't knowin')
When we tryin' to make all this copy fit (you ain't knowin')
You know my bus pass and coffee money's spent (you ain't knowin')
And a whole lotta reporters writin' shit (don't you know it)

You know it's hard out here on the rim (you ain't knowin')
When we tryin' to make all this copy fit (you ain't knowin')
You know I'm workin' yet another OT shift (you ain't knowin')
And a bunch of guys with ties talkin' shit (don't you know it)

In my time I done seen some crazy thangs on the rim
Gotta couple slots tweakin' all the heads that I send
But I gotta keep it tight, just like election night
And lettin' libel in the paypa, well I know that ain't right
Done seen stories spiked, seen editors deal
Seen rimmers die at their desks, man, I'm fo' real
It's messed up where I work, but that's just how it is
It might be new to you, but it's been like this fo' years
It's heads, jumps and tears when it come down to the desk
I'm tryin' to get some love 'fore I leave up out this wreck
I'm tryin' to change thangs but it's hard fo' a rim
But I'm hopin' and I'm prayin' I can squeeze it all in
There are also stories on the headline winners, scholarship winners and election winners.

A chat with WaPo's Don Podesta

I stumbled upon an online chat with Don Podesta, AME for copy desks at the Washington Post, about 15 minutes before it was over today. Damn.

Luckily, reading the transcript after the discussion has ended is just as easy as (maybe easier than) reading it live. There's a lot of good stuff there. A few examples:
Alexandria, Va.: How do online headlines differ from print headlines at The Post? And how important is the lead for online writing, compared to print?

Don Podesta: Excellent question. We find that clever headlines and anecdotal ledes or suspended interest ledes on the print side are a disservice to our Web site. The reason for that is that so many readers of our Web site now come to it "sideways," from search engines or links on blogs. So a headline built around a play on words might not turn up in a search on that subject, no matter how relevant to the search the story is. That means headlines on the Web site need to be much more straightforward and written in the traditional subject-verb-object syntax.
Is yet another refer to the "This boring headline is written for Google" story warranted here? I think so.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, I'm an editor too, and I have high respect for the copy editors at The Post (and their headlines, too). I'm curious about the term "undocumented immigrants" -- what does it mean? It sounds like an immigrant who lost a piece of paper or something. Why don't you use "illegal immigrants"? I suppose it's because some people find it pejorative, but it is more clear than "undocumented." (BTW, I'm a Spanish-speaking supporter of increased immigrant rights ... and also a supporter of clear language!)

Don Podesta: This has been a hot-button issue. To many "undocumented immigrant" or "undocumented worker" sounds like a euphemism. Here's what our manual of style says about that:

"When used to describe immigrants, this is a euphemism that obscures an important fact -- that they are in this country illegally. In general, use illegal immigrant (but not illegal alien. The word alien is repugnant to some people). Terms such as undocumented worker may be used for the sake of variety. Despite what Webster's says, do not use illegal as a noun, as in Jimenez is an illegal."

That said, my own personal belief is that over time "undocumented" is more accurate. We've had amnesties in the past, and there are bills in Congress now addressing the status of immigrants. Someone here illegally one day can be here legally the next. But not having papers means not having papers.
Surprisingly, there was quite a bit about headline puns, probably because of the San Antonio Express-News ban (which he addressed outright):
Fairfax , Va.: Hi and thanks for chatting,

What is the best headline you have read this week?

Don Podesta: "Pistil-Packing Thieves Just Uproot and Leave" on a story about about plant thefts. ...


Hays, Kan.: Hi, Mr. Podesta:

Local headline about a high school athlete with the last name of Munsch who broke a record: "New record to Munsch on."

Ugghh. When does the cheese-factor on headline writing go too far?

Your "Pistil-Packing Thieves..." example seemed to have a nice balance of cleverness, cheesiness and news value to capture readers' attention.

But is there some official standard headline writers are held to or is the standard more of a gut check?

Don Podesta: That just doesn't cut it. For a pun to be appropriate in a headline, it has to be consonant with the tone of the story, and the pun has to work on all levels. The athlete isn't chewing on his new records, so that one goes nowhere. ...


Richmond, Va.: What do you think about the San Antonio Express-News' decision to ban puns in its headlines? For me, writing good puns was one of the best parts of being a copy editor.

Don Podesta: It's not good to ban language from the paper. Avoiding cliches, loaded language, off-color words is the right thing to do, but you should never say never because there will come a time when an exception is needed.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Express-News bans puns in headlines

The editor of the San Antonio Express-News banned all puns in headlines after seeing nine of them in April 20's paper.

"I am prepared to take disciplinary action against our most senior headline writers and editors if my order is not respected," editor Robert Rivard wrote in an e-mail, quoted in the public editor's column. "I do not want to be the editor of a newspaper where we limit the creative use of language. ... I want even less to be the editor of a newspaper riddled with puns."


Many will argue that papers can only benefit from such a move. I won't go that far, but there are too many mediocre -- and just plain bad -- puns that make it into papers every day.

The topic came up at the ACES conference, and here's my part of the conversation: Much of the time, puns end up in our headlines because we feel lazy if they don't. We can read a story and throw a headline on top of it. We'll do some work to make it fit and strengthen the verb. And that's good enough. But with 15 minutes left before the story needs to go, maybe we can do something better, something to show that we tried.

Who are we showing? Our colleagues, our bosses, maybe even a headline judge. But readers? Seldom do they care. They're looking for news, and a clever headline doesn't tell the story any better. It may even distract them from the news.

Another reason we do it: We're bored. We wrote a headline on that very topic last week ... and last month and last year. We're ready for a new direction. And a pun-within-paramaters challenge is just enough to shake out the cobwebs. (This is the "Headlines are our only creative outlet" excuse.)

There's a third reason that comes to mind, and it is this one that makes the Express-News decision a disappointment: There are occasional strokes of brilliance where good word play perfectly fits the tone of the story, where it adds nuance that a straight hed wouldn't.

I'll repeat the advice from "Headlines and Deadlines":
Two tests can be propounded for puns, whether in a headline or elsewhere. The first is whether each of the two meanings of the word forming the pun is appropriate. ...

The second test is based on the theory that the basis of humor is incongruity and unexpectedness. This means that the pun should not be obvious; it should not be just lying around waiting to be picked up. ... The best advice that can be given to the headline writer is to avoid the pun unless he is convinced that it is exceptionally good. If there is one thing that most newspapers need, it is more sophistication. The bad pun, like the childish rhyme, is the mortal enemy of this quality.
Back to the Express-News decision: Is it a good one?

Banning punny headlines probably does readers more good than harm. (List all the reasons people subscribe. Semi-clever headlines should never make the top 10.)

But I dislike that the editor thought the edict necessary, that he felt as though he couldn't tell copy editors to raise the bar and leave it at that. And this quote from the editor seemed like overkill:
"It's a shame to see the good work of so many disparaged because of the immaturity of a few headline writers who seem more focused on peer approval than on producing a quality newspaper for the community."
Here are some of the punny Express-News headlines mentioned:

"Old well ends well: River Walk threat wiped out"
"Mumps outbreak swells"

"Border violence killing tourism"

"Bell's name doesn't have a familiar ring for many voters"

"(Pope) Benedict names a flock of new cardinals"

Related reading:
This boring headline is written for Google [New York Times]
Comments on "This boring headline is written for Google" [Slashdot] (scroll down to "Maybe I should apply to be a journalist, and start reading there)
Debate on when puns work [Testy Copy Editors]
Readers flummoxed by runaway headlines [St. Petersburg Times]
Regrettable puns I've used as headlines at the in-flight magazine for which I work [McSweeney's]

Newsroom morale

The "Morale: Who Needs It?" session at the ACES conference had more anecdotes than easily summarized advice. But here are a few tips I gleaned from what the New York Times' Lew Serviss and Arlene Schneider presented.

First, they offered some of the rejected titles for their session: "The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves" and "If It Weren't for Low Morale, I'd Have No Morale At All." That shows you a lot of people's mindset going into the discussion.

Serviss (sports copy chief) made the point that where you work is where you live; you spend more waking hours at the job than you do at home. Do you want to live in a miserable area with fights and back-stabbing? Or do you want a cheerier, safer place where can be creative and flourish? Change your work environment like you would at home. And recognize that some things may be out of your control. If those are really important to you, you may need to consider a move.

Schneider (recruiter of copy editors) addressed the infatuation with media gossip. She said your readers don't care if you're about to be sold, so don't spend half your shift paralyzed with fear instead of editing. Stop hitting refresh on Romenesko.

She held a similar discussion in 2002; ACES has coverage here.

Whither went the idle rich?

The rich don't describe themselves as rich (except for celebrities, who are expected to live lavishly).

Geoff Nunberg addressed the phenomenon in the New York Times on Sunday.

He noted that if you're a millionaire but your neighbors are bajillionaires, you feel less rich.
After all, if you're still flying commercial and your business school classmates have their own Gulfstreams, it's easy to forget that there was a time when your wildest dreams of riches only went as far as a seat in first class.
Also noted:
In his 1994 book, "The Agenda," Bob Woodward reported that Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, himself a wealthy man, urged President Bill Clinton to speak only of "the well-to-do" -- a phrase that suggests a respectably prosperous patent lawyer, not Paris Hilton.