The story behind the newspaper prop

Newspaper prop

Slate has this report:

Brow Beat has learned that the prop comes from a small newspaper prop company called the Earl Hays Press in Sun Valley, Calif. Started in 1915, Earl Hays is one of the oldest newspaper prop companies, and the paper in question was first printed in the 1960s (note the top-hat ad on the lower left), then offered as a “period paper,” better suited for Mad Men (where it has not appeared) than Scrubs (where it has). The screenshots don’t actually reveal the same propjust various printings of the same file. The front is blank and can be customized, but the inside and back page are always identical. In fact, in No Country for Old Men, when Tommy Lee Jones is reading a paper at a diner, the section in his hands is the same as the one sitting on the table, suggesting that the prop master bought two copies to make the paper look fuller, but made the mistake of leaving the stock spread facing up.

Production companies use prop newspapers instead of real ones because getting clearance from an actual publication is usually more work than it’s worth in potential fees and bureaucracy. (There are exceptions. When Tony Soprano picked up his paper each morning, it was always the Newark Star Ledger.) Rather than battle the legal department at the New York Times for that perfunctory breakfast shot, prop masters buy a stack of Earl Hays fake papers, which cost just $15 each. Sometimes if they have some left over they’ll recycle them for another job.

In case you’re curious about the headlines, here are a couple. Above the photo of the young woman with long, thick, dark hair: “She’s 3rd Brightest But Hard ‘Gal’ To See.” On the opposite page above what turns out to be a warehouse burning: “Compromised Housing Bill Sent to President for OK.”


Secret codes

Stores, hospitals, entertainment venues, and other places where the public are together in large numbers, use secret codes to pass information between store employees. These are meant to be a secret as they don’t want to alarm the non-staff members or alert someone (like a thief) to the fact that they have been noticed. Many stores have their own codes – for example WalMart, but there are a number that are nearly universal in application
. This is a list of ten secret codes that may prove useful to you in future, or at least dispel any curiosity you may have if you hear them.

Here are a few examples:

In computer support, a variety of codes can be used when referring to a customer. One of these codes has become fairly well known on the internet: PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair) but there are a variety of others that are lesser known. One of these is used when reporting a fault which has been fixed: “The fault was a PICNIC” (problem in chair – not in computer), or “ID 10 T Error” – ID 10 T is, of course, IDIOT. Let us hope that you never see this noted down on your file when a serviceman is fixing your computer.

Doctor Brown” is a code word often used in hospitals to alert security staff to a threat to personnel. If a nurse or doctor is in danger from a violent patient or non-staff member, they can page Doctor Brown to their location and the security staff will rush to their aid. In some hospitals, code silver is used to refer to a person with a weapon, and code gray can mean a violent person without a weapon. Hospitals have a huge array of various codes to describe all manner of situations. They often differ from hospital to hospital and they are usually not internationally recognized.

Code Adam was invented by Walmart but it is now an internationally recognized alert. It means “missing child”. The code was first coined in 1994 in memory of Adam Walsh, a six-year old, who went missing in a Sears department store in Florida in 1981. Adam was later found murdered. The person making the announcement will state “we have a code Adam,” followed by a description of the missing child. As soon as the alert is heard, security staff will begin to monitor the doors and other exits. If the child is not found within 10 minutes, the police are alerted and a store search begins. Also, if the child is found in the first 10 minutes in the company of an unknown adult, the police must be called and the person detained if it is safe to do so. In 2003, the US Congress passed legislation making a “Code Adam” program compulsory in all federal office buildings. A similar alert is called an AMBER alert, a backronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response” but initially named for Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old girl who was abducted and murdered.

More secret codes here