The Junk Drawer: “Wiry Women” and “pole workers” edition


I swear that there used to be hand sanitizer in this thing…

Welcome to this edition of the junk drawer. As we have outlined in previous junk drawer posts, this is a random collection of stuff that is important but didn’t fit anywhere else, much like that drawer in the kitchen of most of our homes. Hope you find value in it:


A “Wiry” Winner
A few months ago, we talked about gender bias in writing when Judge Jill Karofsky, a candidate for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, was described in a profile as “a wiry marathon runner who has completed two Iron Man competitions” and was also a state doubles champion in 1982.

Just as a follow up to this story, she ended up winning the election, despite the fact it was the source of about 812 lawsuits and intervening attempts to move it around due to the COVID situation.

Speaking of the elections…


Editing matters, politics edition.

Given how hotly contested things were out here, we had a lot of local writers banging away on their “hot takes” on the topic. We also had national attention on us. One of the frequent mistakes I saw was involving an unfortunate homophone.

This is an example of “people working the polls.”


This is an example of “people working the poles.”

Know the difference before a friend asks you to be a worker of one of these things. Coincidentally, one of our good friends was a “poll worker” who was sent a kit to help run her polling place. It contained a bottle of vodka, with the word “hand sanitizer” written on a label that had been pasted over the vodka brand. Apparently, that was the best they could do to deal with the coronavirus out here…

Speaking of the coronavirus situation…


Editing matters, coronavirus edition:

A former student of mine sent this to me. It was posted on the door of her apartment complex. Her note? “I’m glad you taught me to read things carefully.”



Speaking of “that’s not quite what I meant…”

A student turned in her writing assignment on the coronavirus with the following quote:

“We were nervous in the sense that we were very cautious and did not want to touch anything or expose ourselves to others unnecessarily,” she said.

I know what she meant, but I really needed a laugh at that point, especially in terms of the “expose ourselves to other unnecessarily” element.

And, finally, speaking of needing a laugh…


Are we just not doing “phrasing” anymore?

I told this story for years and it bordered on the apocryphal, because it seemed too ridiculous to believe.

We got a call over the scanner of an armed robbery at the Olde Un Theater, our local porn store. Jeff Barnes was one of the best reporters I ever had in terms of jumping all over a story and he was on it. (He convinced the local county fire protection folks to give him a volunteer pager so he could be out to the scene faster than other reporters. He also once covered a forest fire and the tires on his truck almost melted when the path of the fire switched.)

As he was running out the door, I half-teasing yelled, “Don’t forget. If you want a byline story on this, you need two sources…” I knew full well he’d get the cops and that was it, given that a) we rarely got a second source on breaking news like this and b) who the hell was he going to interview at a porn store?

Sure enough, Jeff came back with a story that had two sources. He manged to find a guy who admitted he was in the porn palace, was willing to give his name and gave us a line about the guy yelling at him that he needed to hit the floor or the guy was “going to blow your (expletive) head off.”

Jeff then asked the cop about this and got the cops to repeat for him a sanitized version of the “blow their heads off” line, which we then used in the story and the headline.

After a while, nobody really believed that story, except me and my buddy Steve, who was on the copy desk that night. However, I mentioned it on Facebook about a year or so ago, someone found Jeff Barnes and Barnes confirmed it. Better yet, he found the clip in his old portfolio and sent it to me.

Take that, doubters:



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