News business can sometimes cut very deep

Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

They’re called “X-Acto” knives, and anyone who labored in the newspaper business during the pre-Apple era was never far from their reach.

Over the years, the otherwise deadly tool saved many a publishing life, serving as a handy means of eradicating the most ghastly typo.

It was a Wednesday, some seven years deep into my newspaper career, when I came face-to-face with this most lethal weapon.

The day was hot, the stories were not, as we scrambled to piece together the final few pages in that week’s newspaper puzzle. Seldom does a press day go by without the pleasure of a mild interruption, all seemingly designed to short-circuit the weekly flow of news from reporters to readers.

The call of summer had cut into our numbers that day, as a skeleton staff labored to make some semblance of order. A newspaper staff short two people translated into a need for a double dose of X-Actos. As a result, everyone in the office was well-armed that day, resting one above the ear, stashing another in a side pocket.

Then, up the stairs, at the height of hysteria, walked a man with a story. His tale of woe warranted little in the form of attention, but we all felt duty bound to set aside our X-Actos and to lend an ear to a man on a mission. One X-Acto went here, another went there, as we did our best to bring time to a standstill.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. His story dragged on, when we sensed our X-Actos were beginning to fidget. I quickly rose to my feet and reached for his hand when it suddenly happened. I looked at my leg and felt the lump in my throat, and knew that I might have a front page story:

“Newspaper editor stabbed by wayward X-Acto knife; dies two hours later while listening to man tell story”

The headline had a nice ring to it, but I wasn’t sure my family would appreciate the humor. After all, there was that pressing problem of the X-Acto lodged in my leg, making my summer slacks resemble the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Despite my look, the man continued on with his story, delving deep into the details with a devilish grin. I winced and I nodded, hoping he would somehow notice that we had just hit a journalistic gusher.

He did with aplomb, dryly observing, “By the way, do you know that you’re bleeding?”

“Yes, I do,” was the response. “But, please don’t mind me fainting.”

A stitch here and a stitch there, and I was back in business, fresh with the knowledge that it’s best to keep everything but a keyboard away from a writer.