It’s hard to believe, but at some newspapers back in the ’70s – the 1970’s – editors were idiots and reporters felt it their duty to rebel.
An editor at the Orange County Register, for instance, once called me to complain that his trash pickup was two hours late. He wanted me to get to the bottom of it.
Fellow writer George Cunningham and I worked a small Register bureau in a Garden Grove strip mall, and if it seems as if his name comes up often, it should. Cunningham and I worked for two newspapers together.
Both are still standing. You’re welcome.
Anyway, one of the Register’s favorite fool’s ploys was the mock-poll. Inspiration would strike an editor with a question, and every beat writer would be asked to randomly telephone five people from the phone directory and ask that question.
To a pair of savy, investigative reporters like George and I – hey, it’s our story – such assignments were a waste of time, effort and space in the newspaper. So we rebelled.
When the next call went out to hit the phone directories, George called only people with the last names of articles of clothing. I recall ‘Bernard Shortsleeves.’
I took on the names of animals. It was easy – I found a Fox, a Camel, a Ratt. Ah, but the hall of fame pick for me that day was ‘Lanie Duck.’ Not only was the name legit, she answered her telephone.
We submitted our 10 names and their quotes and waited. No response. The next day, along with many other names, the Register ran quotes from Ms. Duck and Mr. Shirtsleeves.
As social protest, it was lacking. It did make us laugh, though, and in those days, laughter kept us relatively sane.
And, please, how many times in a lifetime do you get the chance to say in all seriousness, ‘Ms. Duck, do you have a moment?’