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You Be The Editor

The huge interest out there in blogworld in the internal workings of a big daily newspaper -- more than 800 comments earlier this week on our ombudsman's take on the Jack Abramoff affair -- leads me to wonder if you might want a peek at some of the crucial decisions that editors, the anonymous leaders of the newsroom, must make hundreds of times a day.

Let's say you're an editor in the Style or Metro section. Part of your task each day is to sift through hundreds of possible stories and decide which ones you want on your pages tomorrow morning. Some of those ideas come from reporters, some from readers, and some from PR agencies. Every missive from readers gets read, and in most cases, answered. But when it comes to stuff from PR people, most of it goes unopened into the trash. Sadly, that deprives many in the newsroom of some fine entertainment. And the poor readers hardly ever get to see the product of the vast industry devoted to getting publicity.

So today, we remedy that situation. Here are two of today's PR pitches. You be the judge: Do you a) assign a reporter and get the story in tomorrow's paper, b) kick yourself for having opened the email in the first place, c) immediately send the news release to all your buddies and then throw it away, or d) slap that baby up on the blog so the whole class can share the laugh?

Release #1:

Toilet Terror Could Strike During Halftime

NEENAH, Wis., Jan. 17, 2006-- Every year, 64 million Americans-- more than one in five-- face a clogged toilet, often at halftime. In fact, legend has it 90 million toilets will be flushed during halftime of the upcoming Big Game, creating enough water to flow over Niagara Falls for seven minutes. This high-traffic bathroom time is known as the Halftime Flush.

The SCOTT® Clog Clinic-- an authority on common-sense solutions for eliminating clogged toilets-- has teamed up with renowned professional football player, coach, and Big Game Halftime expert, Mike Ditka, to take control of toilet terror with This online resource offers common-sense solutions to help avoid toilet blockages, and the emotional and financial strains they cause.

"During the Big Game, the pressure to win is always intense in the locker room," said Ditka. "And, the thing is, not only does the team feel the pressure, but the fans and their bathrooms do too. See, during halftime, so many johns are flushed, they go into overtime mode. All that water pressure can cause serious clogs so, it's important to prepare!"

And Release #2--be sure to read, or skip to, the last sentence:

Plastic Surgery Tops Valentine's Day Gift List

For Valentine's Day, more and more people are giving the gift that doesn't go away: plastic surgery.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, plastic surgery has become one of the most sought-after gifts this year-- and the labiaplasty is at the top of that list.

We live in parlous times (I've always wanted to write that and seeing as how I'm not prime minister of a troubled land, I never had the chance). But you as editor must rise above the petty disputes of the world and address the key questions that define our daily lives. Toilet terror or labiaplasty--which is the story you will assign? The power rests in your hands.

By Marc Fisher |  January 19, 2006; 7:57 AM ET
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Toilet story wins, no contest. Put it this way- how many people do you know who would not like to avoid a clogged toilet?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | January 19, 2006 10:27 AM

Gotta go with the toliet story. You could even talk to Gene's guy for expertise - the 'stool drivin' man.

Posted by: The Toilet Story! | January 19, 2006 10:30 AM

This is an old story; you oldtimers may remember that this was a big story in the heydays of the Ed Sullivan Show. It was know as the Flush Factor. Ed Sullivan was so popular that his commercials delivered a surge in New York's sewer system.

Posted by: Historian | January 19, 2006 10:55 AM

Is no one else freaked out that apparently labiaplasty is so common that it's being given as a Valentine's gift?!!?? Ewwwww! I'm gonna sit with my legs crossed for the rest of the day!

Posted by: Talley Lach | January 19, 2006 12:22 PM

Sorry, the Toilet thing is pure Urban Legend and actually goes back to Amos n Andy on radio.

The Labiaplasty seems to be part of the new concept that we can use surgery to get back to where we never were, and is, frighteningly, tied to a plastic surgical re-virginilization.

Posted by: Catcher50 | January 19, 2006 12:30 PM

I'm a health reporter, and my jaw still dropped at the press release linking valentine's day and labiaplasty. Literally. My mouth opened.

Posted by: holy cow | January 19, 2006 12:51 PM

(And, yes, of course I would immediately forward that to my colleagues.)

Posted by: holy cow | January 19, 2006 12:52 PM

You did mean "perilous" and not "parlous" -- yes?

As for the peril of labiaplasty, I could never face it.

Posted by: mharvey816 | January 19, 2006 1:43 PM

From Merriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: par·lous
Pronunciation: 'pär-l&s
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, alteration of perilous
1 obsolete : dangerously shrewd or cunning
2 : full of danger or risk : HAZARDOUS
- par·lous·ly adverb

Posted by: Noah Webster | January 19, 2006 1:48 PM

Neither. Publish the score of the Superbowl instead.

Posted by: Heather | January 19, 2006 3:41 PM

I vote labiaplasty. I'd read that story, in horror at America and the weird anti-decrepitude to which we have sunk (risen?) with our obsession with mechanically restoring what time and nature take away.

Posted by: Lindemann | January 20, 2006 9:13 AM

That there have only been 11 responces speaks to the fact this was a dim idea presented in a self-serving manner.

Posted by: Dave | January 21, 2006 8:45 AM

How much did you pay to read it?

Posted by: Lindemann | January 21, 2006 12:56 PM

Well, the toilet story is just another variant on an old urban legend (see

Probably the labiaplasty one is just as phony, but I think I'd take that one and assign it to Stuever (as, you know, a neutral party). Whatever he came up with, there'd be incensed commentary for weeks afterward. Mission accomplished!

Posted by: Fran | January 23, 2006 2:59 PM

Let's try that link again without any punctuation to mess it up:

Posted by: Fran | January 23, 2006 3:00 PM

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