The Yawn Awards

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The results are in for our boring article contest. Or at least, the judges are all snoring in unison, so we’ve decided to stop and declare a winner. The good news is that, while we may be losing markets to China every day, we still can hold our own in the production of boring newspaper articles. Most of the entries were written in just the past week, by Americans, right here in the US of A.

We should have said at the beginning that Andy Rooney is not eligible. I mean, what’s the point? But since we didn’t say so, an honorable mention goes to Rooney (and to his nominator, whose Web identity is "notquitefamous") for a column last year called, believe it or not, "Few People Appreciate Good Writing." Rooney reports that a mutual friend took him to lunch with E.B. White, the legendary New Yorker grammarian. "It stands out as the lunch of my life. I would not have been prouder to have eaten with William Shakespeare," Rooney writes. If Rooney remembers anything White may have said—or even eaten—at this memorable lunch, or any impression that he, Rooney, may have had about White, or really anything that may have happened during the lunch or anyone’s reaction to it, the secret will go with him to the grave. Or at least he doesn’t reveal it here.

An honorable mention goes to an article from the August 3 Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle, nominated by Clifton Chadwick of the United Arab Emirates. As Mr. Chadwick points out, this article is not so much boring as it is pugnaciously uninformative. Here’s the whole thing:

Elise Shelton, Chief Communications Officer for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, confirmed this afternoon an investigation is under way at Clarksville High regarding an incident that was reported to school officials when the football team attended camp last week.

Shelton said administrators at Clarksville High were undertaking the investigation, and were taking statements about any issue “that did or did not occur.”

Shelton said school administrators were hoping to conclude the investigation this week.

If there is any student involvement in the incident, the names of those students would be withheld, along with any punishment, Shelton said.

“We can’t say anything until they have had time to finish the investigation, and we don’t want to interrupt that,” Shelton said.

In short, they are investigating an incident that they can’t describe, that may or may not have occurred, and when they find out who was involved, they’re not going to tell you that either. At least they’re making no effort to cover up the cover-up.

The runner up is a column that ran last week in the Seattle Times called "The Green Commuting Challenge." Here are the first few paragraphs. Think of it as a poem. Perhaps by Holden Caulfield.

Most of us would be better off if we biked or walked to work, if we could do it safely.

And if we were close enough to work and didn't need to transport anything large or make side trips.

Still, a lot of people could replace carbons with calories to power their commutes.

It's an individual decision, but the individual decisions in the aggregate affect the whole society. That's why there's a tendency to urge people to do what's best for the most by making it a virtue.

And so on.

First prize goes to the paper that inspired this contest, the New York Times, for an astoundingly banal contribution to a regular column called "Lives" in the Times Magazine. This one ran August 18. It is a first-person account of a train ride from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The author was hoping for a compartment by herself, but instead she had to share with a large Russian man. "I’m Marcia," she said. "I’m Igor," he replied. "No," she thought. "No, no, no." She had wanted to be alone with her memories of the old Soviet Union. They exchange pictures of their families. He politely steps into the hallway while she changes for bed. The next morning, he helps her off the train. She turns to say goodbye. “But he was already gone, disappeared into the crowd.” If there is any implication of sex, or of anything interesting at all, really, it is too subtle for me. But the first person to nominate this story was Ann Coulter, the right-wing commentatress, and I figure that if it was there, she would surely notice it. And apparently, she didn’t.

Congratulations to Coulter and thanks to everybody who sent in nominations.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.