Rich Heldenfels

Call me iconic. Just don’t do it in Milwaukee.

According to Jim Romenesko’s journalism site, the managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper warned staffers in a memo that the word iconic — referring to things and people that are revered — was being overused. “It’s not a bad word, but it is becoming a cliché,” said the memo.

How clichéd? Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl said that in the previous month the word had been used to describe:

“Pizza Man restaurant; Golden Zither restaurant; Thorpedo restaurant; the Red Buses in Glacier National Park; the ‘Migrant Mother’ photo; Grand Central Station; Sound City recording studio; the War Memorial Center; Hostess Twinkies, Ding Dongs and HoHos; the Romeo & Juliet ballet; the Cowardly Lion costume, red slippers, Tin Man and Toto from The Wizard of Oz; J.R. Ewing from Dallas; Wisconsin cheddar cheese; the Batman mask worn by George Clooney in the movie; Star Wars characters Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen; and New York radio station WBAI.”

Some of those uses may be legit, but look at the number of them.

Even after the memo, Stingl said, writers used iconic to describe the White House and Davy Crockett.

Now, as the original memo said, iconic isn’t a bad word or, in at least some cases, an incorrectly used one.

But with some embarrassment, I peeked into the Beacon Journal files to see how often you could find iconic and Heldenfels together. Although, alas, none actually paired the two words, there were about three dozen uses over the last 18-plus years, including ones involving Rita Hayworth and True Grit.

I’ll take the rap for those. But I was reminded again that some words are better used sparingly.

And carefully. Iconic is not unique. Even though that means “one and only” and “having no like or equal,” many people cannot resist the urge to attach it to a very or most. You cannot be the most one of a kind.

Rather, iconic is one of those easily grabbed terms — verbal crutches, a colleague calls them — that writers and others fall back on rather than look for the perfect word.

You want to start your eyes rolling? Look at how often ’tis the season pops up in news stories, and not only around holiday time.

Another Beacon Journal search unearthed close to 400 uses of the phrase, in headlines and stories, from a reference to “?’Tis the season for holiday gift giving and receiving” to “?’Tis the season for the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line” and “ ’Tis the season for the Browns to make their offseason wish list.”

So maybe this year folks should think, ’tisn’t.

Blind Side Actor in Ohio. Quinton Aaron, who played real-life football player Michael Oher in The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, is on a multicity campaign to raise awareness about bullying and to fund anti-bullying efforts.

As part of the tour, Aaron will sign autographs and pose for photos in the Quaker Steak & Lube on Dressler Road in Jackson Township from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday; the Quaker Steak location on Canal Road in Valley View from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday; and the one on Reynolds Road in Mentor from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

While his size might make you think otherwise, Aaron says, “I don’t shy away from the fact that I was bullied.”

There is no charge for autographs or for taking your own photos, although donations are suggested. There is a charge for preprinted and autographed photos of Aaron, and if Aaron’s photographer on site takes the pictures.

Walters Eyeing Retirement? Numerous reports have 80-something Barbara Walters retiring from ABC News in 2014 — although none of those reports cites Walters herself. Many said the news-and-interviews star will announce her plans in May, during local ratings sweeps, with hoopla to ensue.

It’s not clear how extensive this retirement will be — whether, for instance, she will continue to host specials and drop by The View. As the Washington Post noted, Walters “entered a state of ‘semi-retirement’?” in 2004 and “in 2010, she announced that she was retiring from her annual Oscars special interview show.” She has also had some recent health problems, including a concussion from a fall and a bout of chicken pox.

Talk Stopping. NPR will end Talk of the Nation on July 1, replacing it with an expanded Here and Now on Monday through Thursday while continuing Science Friday. Talk host Neal Conan will leave NPR.

According to a report on, “NPR executives said public radio has a glut of vibrant call-in shows involving national issues — and that they sought a news magazine with a mix of interviews and prepared stories to bridge the hours between Morning Edition and All Things Considered.”

WKSU (89.7-FM) carries Here and Now in its current, hourlong form at noon weekdays, between blocks of classical music, but does not air Talk of the Nation. WCPN (90.3-FM) airs one hour of Talk and Science Friday at 2 p.m. weekdays (the national shows run two hours) but does not carry Here and Now.

Network Renewals. CBS has renewed 18 current series for the 2013-14 season. Included: reality shows Survivor, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss; dramas CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; NCIS; NCIS: Los Angeles; The Good Wife; Elementary; Hawaii Five-O; The Mentalist; Blue Bloods; and Person of Interest; comedies 2 Broke Girls, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and Mike & Molly, and newsmagazines 60 Minutes and 48 Hours.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or