The Romenesko letters page has scads of dumb assignments that reporters have suffered through over the years. I have one to add:
This story unfolds at a certain Downstate Illinois daily whose coverage area includes a wildlife park in the nearby countryside. Signs pointing the way to the park included large bears standing up with one arm extended in the general direction of the park.
Now and then enterprising pranksters could nail a phallic chunk of wood in the general area of the bear’s private parts, giving the impression of Smoky With a Woody.
One evening, the publisher of said daily was driving past one of these tumescent signs and became so enraged that he stopped his car, called the Photo Desk at the paper and insisted that somebody head out there right this minute, take a picture and get it into tomorrow’s paper.
One of the paper’s grizzled veteran shooters hopped in his car, drove out to the sign, took a picture, drove back to the paper, developed his film, scanned the image into the computer system, typed in the caption, printed out a proof and handed it over to the night city editor.
Penciled in the photographer’s own hand on the proof was the following:
“If the publisher wants to put a put a bear’s dick in the paper, who am I to say no?”
To get the full effect you have to have the night city editor to tell the story. I must’ve heard him tell it a dozen times (I used to sit right across from him) and he just about laughed himself silly every time.
Incidentally, the photo wasn’t published.