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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, October 14, 2007

Memo to: My boss

Re: How to save the newspaper industry

As we all know, because we keep writing about it, our business is going down the toilet faster than a kilo of coke at a Beverly Hills drug bust. (Please note that I am not in any way comparing print-on-paper journalism to narcotics trafficking.) (Narcotics trafficking still has profit potential.)

I do, however, have a solution to what ails our industry. I am looking at it right now. It's an entertaining new book with the best title I've ever heard: Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan. In this book, writer Todd Gallagher supplies answers to idiotic hypothetical sports-fan questions -- e.g., Can a so-so amateur beat a tennis pro if the pro has to use a frying pan instead of a racquet? Gallagher answers these questions by actually staging the events.

There are lots of cool and authoritative conclusions in this book, based on empirical evidence. No, a morbidly obese goalie would not provide an impermeable defense in ice hockey. Yes, an all-midget team would score a lot of runs in baseball. No, a pro bowler wouldn't be much better than an ordinary Joe at Skee-Ball. An expert Wiffle ball pitcher can tie a Major League batting champion in knots.

But when the reader gets to Chapter 30 of Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan, he discovers something odd. Andy Roddick did not beat the author with a frying pan. Armed with his frying pan, in a match that proceeded thwhack-CLANG-thwhack-CLANG, Andy lost resoundingly, six games to one. He was accurate but had no backhand and could not put any spin on the ball. Indeed, after emphatically not beating the author with a frying pan, Andy flung the kitchen implement down in disgust and broke it.

I e-mailed Todd with the obvious question. He answered kind of sheepishly: After the match didn't come out as they thought it might, he said, the publishers decided to keep the title anyway because they really liked it. The reasoning, apparently, is that it wasn't exactly a lie, since the real story is contained within the book.

Do you see where I'm going with this, Boss?

No? That's because you're not thinking creatively, like the guys at Crown Publishing. Can you imagine how many more newspapers we can sell if our headlines don't have to be true?

For example, I am leafing through the headlines in today's newspaper, and -- let's be frank here -- some of them are every bit as arousing as a 300-pound stripper. (Please note that I am not comparing print-on-paper journalism to exotic dancers. Lots of people still want to look at exotic dancers.) Take this headline, here, plucked right from The Post:

"Rulings by Mukasey Are Called Conservative, Fair"

Zzzzzzz.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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