October 27, 2003

I began my newspaper career at The Milford Shitizen.

After several years toiling for small community newspapers, I finally hit the big time. I landed a reporting job with a major metropolitan daily, the Providence Urinal.

After eight years, I moved on again — this time to sunny Florida and the staff of the St. Petersburg Pravda.

Most newspapers have another identity, usually a pejorative one, in addition to the one gracing the front page nameplate.

Sometimes they’re an inside joke, the play on words providing an escape valve for staff frustration.

But in my experience, the source of a nasty nickname is more than likely customer-based — disaffected readers and viewers who christen their local news organs with monikers selected to highlight perceived journalistic failings.

Consider the recent posting on FreeRepublic.com, which bills itself as a “Conservative News Forum.”

To bash St. Petersburg Times columnist Willliam Maxwell, a poster named “dawn53” trotted out a familiar nickname for my old paper, the publication that lands at my door every morning, the one owned, it should be noted, by The Poynter Institute which depends on its success to fulfill our mission “to teach and inspire journalists and media leaders.” 

That Maxwell is a liberal is an understatement. He writes for one of the most liberal papers in the country, the St. Petersburg Pravda (Times).
Renaming newspapers is a national pastime. (I imagine a similar tradition exists in broadcast news.) Witness this admittedly incomplete litany gleaned from an informal survey of reporters and editors gathered last week for a Poynter seminar:

The Dallas Morning Snooze

The Gnarley Trombone

The Indiana Daily Stupid

Ravenna Wretched Courier

The Daily Repeater-Herald

Virginian Pile-it-on

The Daily Salt Mine

Newspaper nicknames have their value. They toughen our skin against slings and arrows, always useful in a field where newbies are routinely advised, “If you want to be liked, you’re in the wrong business.”

And I always like to point out that there’s an advantage to starting out at a paper known fondly around town as “The Shitizen.” From there, everything’s uphill.

[ What nasty names do folks call your newspaper or station? ]

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Christopher “Chip” Scanlan (@chipscanlan) is a writer and writing coach who formerly directed the writing programs and the National Writer’s Workshops at Poynter where he…
Chip Scanlan

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