NEWSPAPER editor Jack Liver came from the old school of journalism.
Legend had it that he once threw a typewriter out of his window in a blind rage.
He ruled with an iron fist.
That was the way he was brought up in newspapers and he said it never did him any harm.
He firmly believed that discipline got results.
‘Where’s that story you promised me yesterday,’ he would snarl at the chief reporter, John Kenneth. ‘Why doesn’t anyone but me do their fucking job properly around here!’
Jack Liver insisted on respect from his reporters, and he got it.
In his presence, they always called him Mr Liver (though behind his back they called him Shit-On-The-Liver).
John Kenneth came from the old school too.
Perhaps that’s why he put up with his crusty boss for so long, and still called him Mr Liver.
John Kenneth was a complete contrast to his editor.
He was good natured, always patient with members of the public and young reporters alike.
He believed that he could achieve more by carrot than by stick.
And he was a good reporter; had been for 30 years.
Jack Liver was already a dashing-round-town gun reporter when John Kenneth entered the industry.
That’s when he started calling his future editor Mr Liver, and he had never been asked to do differently.
But he figured that things were just about even with his boss, who called him Kenneth when he was a copyboy and still did so.
At least he didn’t call him a lame-brain-son-of-a-bitch idiot of a copyboy any more.
In the early days, John Kenneth and Jack Liver worked in a smoke-filled office amid the clutter and clatter of typewriters and telex machines.
The newspaper was printed on a lumbering old press, capable only of producing smudgy black-and-white newspapers, from plates of lead type produced by a small army of typesetters acting on the instructions of another army of sub-editors and proof-readers.
But times had changed in 30 years.
The newspaper had moved from its old ground-floor premises in the main street to a new high-rise building.
The newspaper’s plates were now transmitted electronically to a high-tech press out of town and the newspapers were brought back on trucks.
The office was a much less chaotic place, as a small bunch of sub-editors beavered away on computer terminals, fully paginating their copy, with the use of spell checkers and good luck, thus cutting out the proof-readers, typesetters and compositors of yesteryear.
John Kenneth had moved up the ranks to become chief reporter, and Jack Liver had become the latest in a long line of distinguished editors.
With the job came an old Remington typewriter that stretched back five generations.
Everyone else in the office now used computers, but Jack Liver still wrote his editorials on the Remington, and got his secretary to input them into the system later.
He did not even have a computer terminal in his office.
If he wanted to read someone else’s stories — and he frequently did — he insisted on them bringing him a print out, double-spaced and on the double.
The office was strictly a no-smoking area, but Jack Liver made his own rules.
Anyone unlucky enough to have an audience with the editor in his office would invariably find him hunched over his Remington with a cigarette protruding from his mouth.
If someone had ever bothered washing the smoke scum from the window, there would have been a magnificent view right down the main street.
‘Where’s that story you promised me yesterday?’ Jack Liver would mumble through the smoke haze, all the time tap-tap-tap, ding, tap-tap-tapping away. ‘Am I the only one who does his fucking job properly around here!’
‘Why do you let him treat you like that?’ John Kenneth was asked by a concerned young reporter one day. ‘You’ve been here nearly as long as he has. Why doesn’t he show YOU some respect?’
‘Ah, he’s not so bad,’ John Kenneth said. ‘You should have seen him when he was a reporter years ago. He was the best reporter I ever worked with. He got scoop after scoop after scoop. And he could write. Oh, how he could write!’
‘But he’s a cranky old bugger,’ the rookie said. ‘I’ve even heard that he once threw a typewriter out of a window because he was so worked up about something. Is that true?’
John Kenneth did not have time to answer.
All of a sudden, Jack Liver stormed out of his office.
His face was even redder than usual.
‘Kenneth, get in here,’ he stormed, pointing to his office. ‘You have some explaining to do, you lame-brain-son-of-a-bitch idiot.’
John Kenneth quietly got up and followed his boss into the office, closing the door gently behind him.
Not unexpectedly, the office was bombarded with the muffled but unmistakable sound of shouting and screaming.
Then there was a BANG.
Then a SMACK.
Then a CRASH.
Then another CRASH.
It sounded, for all money, like something being thrown out of the window.
Oh no, not again!
Not the Remington?
Not the newspaper’s biggest heirloom, shattered into a thousand pieces on the sidewalk below
Nearly everyone in the room rushed to the window of their part of the office.
Sure enough, there far below them, was the typewriter smashed to smithereens.
And right between the letter F and the letter U was a shattered, bloodied body.
It was the editor!
Shit! The mild-mannered John Kenneth had thrown Shit-On-The-Liver out the window!
Or so the story goes.
It might just be an urban myth, designed to keep editors in line. Especially ones who show no respect.