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 Post subject: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2004 8:17 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 46
Location: Ireland
Does anyone else get crazy people writing and phoning in to complain about the strangest and vaguest things?<p>One recent call was when a "member of the public" telephoned in to criticise the layout. When queried he hung up, leading me to the conclusion that this crank was put up to it by someone with a dislike for me personally (there is a likely candidate). His inaccurate use of Quark-related terminology helped me to form this opinion.<p>Other gems have included people calling to congratulate the paper on stories. Fine, but the stories in question are uniformly dire.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2004 9:31 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 12:01 am
Posts: 3137
Location: Homebush NSW Australia
It's known in the New Zealand trade as ''the nutter line''. As for criticising layout, never heard of such a matter being discussed over the phone. Tell them that a letter would be most welcome. It's the best way of cutting them ff without being rude.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Sun Jun 13, 2004 10:42 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2002 1:01 am
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Location: Cusp of retirement, grave or both
Fortunately, as a copy editor here I don't have to talk to civilians.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 9:01 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 836
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
This advice is the only valuable tip I have ever received from a publisher, but it really works.
When you have a nutcase on the line, let it rant for about a minute, then work your way in edgewise and while YOU are speaking, gently disconnect the line with your finger on the phone button. The ranter will assume this happened accidentally, and having got the bulk of the rank off its chest, will give up. If you hang up while the ranter is talking, you just increase the degree of irateness and the person will call back and continue, all the way up the chain of command.
This gem courtesy of a staff training and development session run by Brig. R. S. Malone of the Winnipeg Free Press following the decision of 97 per cent of Editorial and Advertising to become Guild members. Malone, more than a little out of touch with reality in the newsroom and advertising, decided that we had organized out of a desire for more training.
The tip has payed off on many occasions, the irony of the session was enjoyed on many levels, and a union contract is a damned good thing to have. Three positive "learning outcomes!"


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 9:03 am 
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
That should have read 87 per cent of the two departments. I don't know how to go back and change it.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 9:23 am 
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Joined: Sat May 22, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 160
Location: Australia
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Fortunately, as a copy editor here I don't have to talk to civilians.<hr></blockquote><p>Unfortunately, I do. Whenever the switch operator gets a features call but not a staff name, the call gets put through to me.
And every day when I get in, I have to delete "voicemail messages" left by, or hang up on, dozens of fax machines, because my number somehow got listed in a national school fax directory.
My solution most days is to unplug the phone and make my "clients" (editors) come to see me when they need to talk.
But one of my daughters is in the States until the end of August; she often calls me at work, so that's a strategy I have to do without for a while... I jump every time the phone rings.<p>[ June 14, 2004: Message edited by: Lee ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 12:10 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 1775
Location: Baltimore
[sorry, this is a long string of anecdotes]<p>When I was part of a city desk's copy desk that had only one phone number, I was known for my willingness to deal with odd callers while I did my real job.<p>Suicide prevention was my specialty. Such calls were especially frequent on Sunday nights, when people were under the influence and had a workweek looming. I'd listen to their problems, then tell them it's a mistake to kill oneself on a weekend. After all, one can find help on a Monday. I'd suggest agencies to call or other sources of help.<p>I sat next to a guy nearing retirement who answerd a call and heard a woman say, "Oh, thank God. I just needed to hear a man's voice again."<p>At my first desk job I sat across from a joker who, on a busy evening, fielded a call from a talkative, apparently lonely woman. After two minutes of barely getting a word in, he put the receiver in a desk drawer and went about his work. Every few minutes he'd pull out the receiver and say "yes" or "uh huh" or some such acknowledgment. No one else got any work done because we were falling on the floor laughing.<p>At 1:30 one morning, as the last two of us prepared to leave the office, the phone rang. Beth picked it up. Her face turned whiter than the drifting snow outside. Seems an elderly man was requesting that we send a photographer to capture for posterity his reattaching of a fallen live wire to his house. He said he figured he'd be providing the flash. He and his frail wife had waited for a week for the utility company to turn their power back on. They needed electricity to run a machine that kept her alive. <p>I told Beth to suggest that he call the utility company. He had -- many times. I suggested that he call the police. He had. I suggested that he leave the power line alone while we called the police. He went along with that, and the police nudged the utility company into making the repair.<p>Keeping score of complaints about biased stories can be fun. "Hmm, five callers say we're too liberal, four say we're too conservative, two say we're anti-religion, three are fed up with our indulgence of conservative Christians, three sensed racism and one says we need to stop pandering to the n------" -- all based on interpretations of the same story.<p>A friend tells of the day he got into an argument with a caller about a television program. She didn't like the show and wanted him to take it off the air. He tried to explain that the paper was in no way affiliated with the TV station. She didn't buy that.
Of course, these days she'd probably be right.<p>[ June 14, 2004: Message edited by: Wayne Countryman ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 5:11 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 1286
Location: Saranac Lake, N.Y.
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Fortunately, as a copy editor here I don't have to talk to civilians.<hr></blockquote><p>I guess you weren't on the copy desk when some nut from blanp's distant past stopped by with a bottle of cheap wine and wanted to talk shop.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 11:43 pm 
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In my AP bureau, as is the case with most of them, we don't have a receptionist -- anyone who dials the main number gets a newsman, newswoman or editorial assistant answering the phone. Fortunately, most nutjobs call individual newspapers or broadcasters, not the AP. But we had one guy who kept calling repeatedly to tell us Vince Foster had been murdered by someone working on Bill Clinton's behalf.<p>We tried explaining politely that we only cover the news of our state, and that he should either call Washington or the bureau in his home state, which was hundreds of miles away. But he kept calling back, day after day, repeatedly annoying the staff.<p>So, one day, I tried a different tactic. I answered the phone as usual, and the nutjob said something like, "Did you know that Vince Foster was murdered and that there's a conspiracy to cover it up?"<p>"Yes," I replied.<p>"Oh my God! Everyone else hangs up or won't believe me, but you know about the conspiracy!"<p>"Yes. And I'm part of it. Goodbye."<p>I hung up the phone. He never called our bureau again.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2004 10:41 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:01 am
Posts: 32
Location: Nutmeg State
I'm most afraid when the phone rings after midnight. I never know what to expect:<p>"Do you know anything about adopting cats?"
"My child is missing. What should I do?"
"Who won American Idol?"
"Will George Bush win the election?"
"How do you spell (fill in the blank)?"


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 6:53 am 
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Location: Sydney, Australia
But you see, there's clearly a book in this. Even if there already is one. Probably even an ongoing series, in a reading-by-the-john type format - don't knock it, a highly profitable niche.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 11:03 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 04, 2003 1:01 am
Posts: 145
Location: Over by there
Once when I was night editor for an afternoon paper, I got a string of calls from youngsters asking the same type of question, I think it had to do with geography or something (the details have been dimmed by the years and too many beers). After two calls it became obvious it was some kind of school assignment and they had decided to do their "research" via phone. So I took my politest tack after that and suggested they might want to visit their local library. <p>Currently I and my staff frequently get calls from people asking how to get copies our magazine, or of individual articles. All we can figure is people see the term "copy editor" on the masthead (where are phone numbers are unfortunately listed) and figure they can call us to get copies. sigh.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2004 11:57 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2003 12:01 am
Posts: 108
Location: Tucson, Ariz.
For callers who complain about story selection or headlines, a simple "The person responsible was fired this morning" invariably satisfies.


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 9:45 am 
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Location: Cusp of retirement, grave or both
This thread cannot die until someone explains what a "green ink nutter" is.<p>
We had an assistant city editor in Milwaukee who was kind of naive. About midnight one day he picked up the phone, looked perplexed for about 30 seconds and then hung it up and shook his head.<p>When I asked what the call was, he said: "They were either offering me three-way sex or freeway sex. I'm not sure which is was."


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:10 am 
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Joined: Sat May 22, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: Australia
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
We had an assistant city editor in Milwaukee who was kind of naive. About midnight one day he picked up the phone, looked perplexed for about 30 seconds and then hung it up and shook his head.<p>When I asked what the call was, he said: "They were either offering me three-way sex or freeway sex. I'm not sure which it was."<hr></blockquote><p>I once worked with a desk chief who did the offering. He'd start getting a lot of calls after 10pm each night and would give out a number and a time. After a while, we realised he was running two prostitutes and organising their jobs from the desk. The numbers were hotel room numbers...<p>[ June 17, 2004: Message edited by: Lee ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 10:19 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Lee:
<p>I. . After a while, we realised he was running two prostitutes and organising their jobs from the desk. The numbers were hotel room numbers...<p>[ June 17, 2004: Message edited by: Lee ]<hr></blockquote><p>
Ah, the good old days....


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 12:32 pm 
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Location: Ireland
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
This thread cannot die until someone explains what a "green ink nutter" is."<hr></blockquote><p>
A green ink nutter is a person who writes long, incoherent rambling letters to the editor, often in green ink or pencil. It's a pejorative term.<p>The modern version is the crazy phone calls and e-mails which come in daily.<p>J...<p>--Edited to correct the grammar, forshame--<p>[ June 17, 2004: Message edited by: Jason Walsh ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 2:08 pm 
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Location: In the newsroom
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Jason Walsh:
<p>
A green ink nutter is a person who writes long, incoherent rambling letters to the editor, often in green ink or pencil. It's a pejorative term.<p>The modern version is the crazy phone calls and e-mails which come in daily.<p>J...<p>--Edited to correct the grammar, forshame--<p>[ June 17, 2004: Message edited by: Jason Walsh ]
<hr></blockquote> No "for shame" necessary, kiddo. Especially in view of your 80-plus-hour week and memo. (My sympathies.)


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 Post subject: Re: Green ink nutters
PostPosted: Thu Jun 17, 2004 3:02 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2004 1:01 am
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Location: The Lexington Avenue Spaceship
At one paper where I worked, the main newsroom number was patched through to the desk chief's phone after 5 p.m. No one had voice mail, so if someone's phone rang and he or she wasn't at his or her desk, someone else had to pick up that line. So, one night, I pick up the desk chief's ringing phone and get what sounds like a very reasonable, although slightly upset, fellow who wants the paper's telemarketers to stop calling him. I listen sympathetically, having had my own unpleasant dealings with telemarketers, and after his mild rant, I ask for his name and phone number so I can pass them on to the marketing dept. His demeanor suddenly changes (I picture a science-fiction demon head suddenly bursting from his more or less human skull) and he's off and running: "I don't need to give you my name! (Company executive) will tell you who I am! I've had it with (newspaper) and their conspiracies against me! I've got a bunch of people who are gathering information about (newspaper) and we're going to put you right out of business -- you and (retired founder of the company), who's a notorious homosexual, and his live-in Filipino boyfriend ..." and so on and so on. He hung up before I could say anything. I later found out he was a regular caller; I don't recall whether he was the same nutjob who regularly called the families of accident victims, told them he was our publisher, and said we were going to print lots of horrible things about their injured/deceased loved ones. Finally, one night he called and told the desk chief he was going to blow up our building. The police were called, and we didn't hear from him after that.


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