You’ve heard the expression before: “It’s a jungle out there!”
Sometimes, it’s a jungle in here. And “here” is our own newsroom.
During my more than 24 years as a consultant, I’ve encountered just about every animal in the newsroom zoo.
You may not have all of these in your newsroom…but I’m willing to bet you’ve identified at least a couple of these where you work.
Here they are:
Ursa obstructionensis: The obstructionist is best recognized by body position: sitting back, arms folded, a quiet yet defiant sneer. This is the newsroom animal who dares you to try to accomplish anything—especially in its square acre of jungle.
Mentus nongottus disguisus: This mammal is distinguished by the fact that it mimics real motion and thought. However it has been brain-dead for years.
Esteemus nongottus survivus: This bottom-dwelling organism chooses to go through life like a clam, always closing tightly when challenged.
Meetingus eternalissimus: Its body locked in a permanent sitting position, this organism survives by attending every gathering of the group—and then going into a self-induced coma between those gatherings.
Nonparticipatimus bitchiensis: This jungle denizen lies in wait for others to create something of value—never taking part in their effort but always first to find fault with the result.
Writissimus compulsus: Distinguished by a deep and passionate love for creating written documents of inordinate length, this vertebrate lives with the illusion that the sole purpose of newswriting is the act of writing itself, and not the imparting of useful information to readers.
Paralyzus perpetualiis: This hairy arachnid makes a lifelong endeavor of devising ways to forestall movement. Instead, it outwaits its victims, tiring them with its infinite patience and its inbred inability to make the first move. It rarely leaves its web. However, it kills just as effectively—if more agonizingly and slowly—by practiced delay.
Tempus fugitardimus: A mollusk whose chief characteristic is the ability to always take much more time than is alloted for a specific task. Researchers have observed this being driving others in the newsroom to insanity by its instinct for doing everything at a pace so slow that it cannot be measured by even the most sophisticated scientific instruments.
Dezynus whinissimus: This invertebrate surrounds itself with colorful objects (usually produced by others of its type) and is known to emit harsh and drawn-out nasal sounds when approached. Those sounds are its defense mechanism against any being or event that challenges it to consider designing something different.
Paginatus assemblitudicus: A voiceless mammal possessing two legs and only a vestigial brain. This being will respond only when given clear and point-by-point instructions on placement of elements in its area of responsibility. It is absolutely incapable of coloring outside the lines.
Managissimus micronos: A crustacean easily recognized by its elongated neck—the result of eons spent peering over the shoulders of other newsroom inhabitants and constantly criticizing and altering their work. This being has never been known to have an original thought, yet it spends its days belittling the work of others.
So…there you have it. The newsroom zoo. Perhaps there are other animals who should join them. Suggestions?
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IF THIS COLUMN has been helpful, you may be interested in Ed’s books: Henninger on Design and 101 Henninger Helpful Hints. With the help of Ed’s books, you’ll immediately have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more about Henninger on Design and 101 Henninger Helpful Hints by visiting Ed’s web site: www.henningerconsulting.com
ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. Offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web: henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.