At the risk of mixing metaphors, let me say sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and take your lumps.
I'll go first.
There are so many buzzwords, catchphrases and slogans that are part of our active vocabularies that it's easy to forget their origins -- some of which are less-than-flattering to specific ethnic groups.
Such was the case when I was editing Josh Stockinger's story this week on the latest development in the lawsuit filed by a Naperville theater owner against porn star Jenna Jameson. Josh and I were struggling a bit with the lead, and I wrote this:
"Lawyers for an adult film star say they'll be in DuPage County court today to fight allegations that she welshed on a personal appearance to promote her movie at two Naperville theaters."
I didn't give my use of the term "welshed" another thought until an editor the next day pointed out there was some internal debate about whether that term might be a pejorative, offensive to people of Welsh descent. A short time later, another editor weighed in with blunt candor, using a more obvious ethnic stereotypical slur as a point of comparison. "Shouldn't we change that? Our Welsh readers might be offended."
My initial reaction, as is sometimes my wont, was one of flippancy. "I'm Welsh, and I'm not offended." My second was that was a dumb thought. I sent through a new version of that story for the web, and I apologize to any Welsh readers who were offended.
Speaking of stepping up to the plate, sometimes the simplest of things can become a source of great pride. The occasion was the annual summerfest that we hold each year at all of the Daily Herald offices. Back in the days of greater prosperity, for newspapers and the rest of the world, these were more elaborate affairs. We used to rent tables, chairs, one of those tent-like shelters, industrial-sized barbecue grill and have a good ol'-fashioned picnic. One year we had a dunk tank where employees took great relish in firing softballs at the target to see the DuPage editor fall into the pool.
But with the cutbacks of recent years, the dunk tanks disappeared, as did all the rentals and some of the more upscale food. We still found a way to pull this off, of course, but it involved all of us lugging the tables and chairs outside, bringing in dishes to pass and such. Honestly, it was becoming a bit of a chore.
This week's summerfest at our office in Lisle brought a new, unprecedented challenge as office manager Liz Samp, a key player in the organizing and execution of the event, was promoted to another job in our Arlington Heights office. Every office that has someone like Liz thanks its lucky stars for the hardworking person who makes the office run efficiently. In many ways, she was our den mother, the person to whom we'd run for help ranging from fixing the copy machine to finding AAA batteries.
But then a funny thing happened: Everyone picked up his or her game to make our summerfest a success. People brought in great side dishes; an advertising rep trucked his gas grill to the office. Everyone, it seemed, pitched in to move furniture, clean up -- all the stuff we used to take for granted because we had Liz here. Yes, we miss her dearly, but there was a renewed sense of camaraderie and teamwork to get the job done. And, everyone seemed to have a good time.
No great lesson in journalism here; just a life lesson about the value of employees pulling together -- as I suspect many have to these days -- because of all the work on our respective plates.