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"Tight News Hole"

     I first heard the phrase, "Tight News Hole," some years ago,
when the volunteers who were keeping our local Albuquerque "arty"
theatre going became frustrated over the refusal of the principal
daily paper, the largest circulation daily in the state, to
review their productions.  The newspaper was simply ignoring what
the theatre was doing.  Those tireless volunteers spelled
"theatre" in the British fashion, for some reason.  
     Local authors had complaints against the newspaper, also,
because of the paper's refusal, or at least failure, to review
their works.  We were made more frustrated by the fact that the
paper did run reviews on many esoteric books originating very far
from here, which could only be of interest to a handful of local
example.  Of course, we authors knew that these reviews were
syndicated -- "canned" is the jargon term -- and cost the paper
very little.  One local author felt insulted when the paper
finally ran a canned review of her book, after refusing to review
it themselves.  The syndicated piece originated in Chicago.
     The local theatre people decided to do more than mope.  They
went into action and grabbed the attention of the public, through
some remarkable TV coverage of their picketing of the offices of
the newspaper.  They complained loudly about the lack of news
     The newspaper's response lamented the fact that there were
so many theatres in our town at that time -- we counted three, I
remember.  The spokesperson for the paper stated that the
newspaper couldn't cover all the cultural news that there was. 
There was no comment at all about book reviews, but then, we
authors weren't part of the picket line, since we only heard
about this commotion after the fact.
     For a brief moment, when I did hear about it, I sympathized
with the paper, disagreeing as I have for some decades with those
who say that our town is lacking in "culture," with too few
theatres and galleries and artists and all that.  There is more
culture here than any one user can absorb.  But then the
spokesperson for the paper concluded his remarks with the phrase
that still sticks in memory.  "We have a very tight news hole
     My first impression was that the choice of words verged on
the downright gross.  Very tight news hole.  No, Harry -- don't
touch it.  Yield not to temptation.
     I have noticed another thing about newspaper reviews of art,
books and plays.  It is very hard to get any notice at all, to be
sure, but when one does get some, they have a way of pulling the
string on anything that looks like a positive endorsement.  It
feels like a real fear of unpaid-for advertising.  
     You can buy an ad that will say whatever you like about your
book, or your play production.  But if a reviewer likes it, he'll
be afraid to say so, for fear some unpaid-for advantage would
come your way.  The fact that he likes it may leak out on the
page there somewhere in spite of everything, but there'll be some
other comment in there which takes it back, just to make sure
that no sales result.
     Mostly the artist is simply ignored.  We have a very tight
news hole here.  Your book isn't news.  Your play isn't news. 
You acting debut isn't news.  Tight news hole.
     Careful here, Harry.  Surely there's a pun, or a metaphor,
something you can pick up on.  Plenty come to mind, actually, but
they are unpublishable in material intended for family.
     A very tight WHAT-hole?  Take it easy, Harry.  You're too
blatant.  That's your problem.  You strive for clarity and end up
with too much.
     "You heard about Samson?"
     "What about him?"
     "He's the one who slew ten thousand Philistines with the
jawbone of an ass."
     "Oh.  I heard it was ten thousand Philadelphians with the
assbone of a mule."
     "No -- Philistines.  But it was the jawbone of a gnu."
     "Gnu!  It wasn't a gnu!  You said it was an ass!"
     "Nope.  It was a gnu.  A tight gnu."
     "Oh, no.  Don't tell me --"
     "Yep.  I got it from a tight gnu's hole."

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Copyright © 2001 Harry Willson

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