Sunday, April 11, 2021
April 11, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Getting the Scoop on news clutter

By , Columbian Editor
3 Photos
Some of The Columbian’s newsroom colorful clutter includes Scoop the betta fish.
Some of The Columbian’s newsroom colorful clutter includes Scoop the betta fish. Photo Gallery

I looked back at my last few columns and decided they were just too serious. I don’t want to give the wrong impression about journalists. We’re serious about our jobs, but at the same time, we act kind of goofy. I can see the evidence as I sit at my desk in the middle of the newsroom. Here is just some of what I am looking at:

Scoop. Our newsroom mascot, Scoop the betta fish joined the metro team several months ago after I told Jessica Prokop and Katie Gillespie that no, we can’t have a newsroom dog. Scoop is Columbian blue and thus remains “on brand.” And so far, he has not bitten anyone, growled, or pooped on the floor. I do wonder what he thinks about as he swims around and watches the editors. He can also see four televisions from his bowl, so that can’t be good for his education.

A small group of Hot Wheels cars and trucks, donated by Dave Kern, a retired assistant metro editor. He used them to thank people for writing “truckies,” which is our name for the little briefs that run on Page D3 of Saturday’s Community section. One of the little trucks has a biohazard sticker, and atop it sits a Hostess Twinkie from back when the original company went out of business. It still looks appealingly golden, if somewhat desiccated, although someone stuck a green plastic propeller through the cellophane packaging and into the top of the cake.

An inflatable beach ball and an inflatable chick, which sit on top of the speaker of our police radio. That seems kind of weird to me. Both inflatables have been there longer than the current occupants of those desks.

A small American flag. I brought that one back from Flag Day in 2009; they gave them to everyone who attended. I still remember that day; I covered two stories plus the cops while substituting on a weekend shift.

A huge pair of googly eyes that someone recently added to the copy desk. They are creepily staring at me and might mysteriously disappear someday when no one except Scoop is watching.

A broken Donald Trump Chia Pet. It came that way in the box. There’s also an intact Hillary Clinton Chia Pet, but neither of them has ever sprouted.

A model of a human skull wearing a court jester’s hat, complete with the jingle bells. I was sort of afraid to ask about this one.

A half bottle of Scotch, the size that you might get served on an airplane. Since we don’t allow drinking on the job, I hope the top half of it just evaporated. But I think of it as a nod to the old days when editors allegedly kept a bottle of bourbon in the bottom drawer of their desk. (I’m too young to remember those days.) UPDATE: Jessica says former staffer John Hill gave it to her with half of it consumed. That makes sense, as John’s grandad once owned a paper in Eastern Washington and he feels newspapering deeply.

A California Raisin. Do you remember them? Back in the day when the singing and dancing raisins were the thing, newsrooms used to get a lot of unsolicited knickknacks from publicists. I suspect this is how the raisin got here.

A lemon yellow foam brain. I think it is one of those things meant to be squeezed as stress relievers. I used to have a red foam heart with our wellness provider’s name on it, but I had to throw it away when it began to disintegrate after a good 10 years.

I’ll end by remembering some things that I used to see all over the newsroom when I started freelancing here 30 years ago: Telephone books. Ashtrays. Typewriters. Pica poles. Proportion wheels. “Non-repro blue” felt pens. And, finally, the little plastic containers that held Kodak Tri-X Pan film.


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