Filling in the Gaps
How Newspaper Layouts Squeezed Every Last Inch

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| May 29, 2019                                                         

Filling in the Gaps: How Newspaper Layouts Squeezed Every Last Inch

Back in the days when people still read newspapers made of real paper, the layout and editorial crew would often find themselves with some extra space left over at the end of a column. This was solved by inserting a short line or two, rarely more verbose than a fortune cookie, of completely random text to fill in the area.

Generally these lines were either little nuggets of observational wisdom, quotes, or short takes on recent news headlines. Here’s a couple of examples from 1953:

“A contribution to the Red Cross is one way of acknowledging that you are your brother’s keeper.”

“Some persons never seem to get what they ask for. Others meet people who are not so polite.”

Quite often, the sentences were cornball, just like those one-liners you’d see in the various humor columns of the day.

The thing was, these gags were generally not unique to a particular paper — the exact same copy would pop up in newspapers all over the country over a span of days or weeks, making them, in essence, syndicated content.

But who supplied this content, and why? Well, that’s a bit of a mystery...

September 11 - October 18, 1951

Tell the British government that if Dr. Mossadegh deviates one iota from oil nationalization, the Iranian people will dispatch him to the next world. — Mullah Kashani, of fanatical Fedayan Islam, to Britain’s Sir Richard Stokes

[This line from Ayatollah Kashani was paraphrased from an Aug. 13th United Press wire service article. The full quote was justified by the phrase “according to authoritative sources”.]

November 16, 1951

The Iran premier Mossadegh walked out of the meeting in New York. At home he would have ridden out in a bullet-proof car.

[Earlier in the year, in response to death threats, Mossadegh had taken to staying overnight in the Parliament building for safety. His predecessor, Ali Razmara, was assassinated in March.]

September 3 - December 31, 1952

Weeping Iranian Premier Mohammed Mossadegh had better learn that water in oil will gum up any machinery—even political.

March 3, 1953

The way we gather it the irate Iranians are about to say the heck of Mossadegh and hurrah for the Shah.

[Refers to the violent Feb. 28th No’he Esfand episode in which Shah partisans attacked Mossadegh’s home]

March 11-20, 1953

Mossadegh may yet rue the day when he persuaded the people of Iran that they should be irate.

[Another riff on No’he Esfand]

April 24, 1953

A group of army officers in Iran have threatened revolt if Premier Mossadegh does not mend his ways. Revolting developments are nothing new in Iran.

October 1, 1953

Premier Mossadegh now has something he can really cry about.

[Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown in a royalist military coup assisted by the British and American governments on August 19, 1953]

November 13-20, 1953

Mossadegh may as well calm down until the Brownell-Truman-White affair clears the front pages.

[While Mossadegh was on trial in military court for treason, Herbert Brownell, Jr., Eisenhower’s Attorney General, accused former Pres. Harry Truman of having appointed the late Harry Dexter White to head the IMF despite FBI warnings that White was a Soviet spy. Truman denied it and condemned Brownell publicly in response.]

March 18, 1954

Iran’s Mossadegh may not have been all wet, but he did his dampest.

[Yet another crack about his reputation for allegedly crying in public.]

October 21-25, 1971

The captains and kings dined at Persepolis, Iran, on golden caviar, a 1911 Moet, rack of lamb Maria Callas, roast peacock done in gold leaf, and a special pink Dom Perignon bottled especially for the Shah...and about one half of the people of Iran went to bed hungry that night.

[The Shah’s lavish party celebrating 2,500 years of Persian monarchy took place in a tent city built for the occasion in Persepolis in mid-October 1971]

One Man’s Opinion: Radio/TV Personality Walter Kiernan on Iran
One Man's Opinion: Radio/TV Personality Walter Kiernan on Iran (1951-1953)


Related links:

Colonel Joe Bush Says || Iran Jokes from the 1950’s

‘Shout With the Biggest’ | The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 5, 1953

Columnist Ollie Crawford’s “Headline Hopping” (More Corny Iran Jokes)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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