Here's the Scoop: Jan. 7, 2009
Back in the old days...
The beginning of a new year, by nature, brings out several emotions. As the name implies, there’s the anticipation of a fresh start and hope for good days ahead.
On the other hand, a new year also carries with it a dose of nostalgia — some good, some not. I started my career at the News in early January and I always flash back to those early days at this time of year.
Each time these “look backs” occur, they are a little less vivid. I’m not sure why.
I do recall, quite clearly, my first day on the job sitting down at a manual Royal typewriter and receiving instructions to “compose as you go.”
While I had decent typing skills, these were pretty much restricted to copying something I’d already written in my unique handwriting style. Creating stories “on the typewriter” was not going to happen. Fortunately, it did.
Of course, after the news staff finished writing a story, it would go to the “real” typesetters who would re-type the entire thing. As time-consuming as this process was, the benefit to the writer was that any errors could be blamed on the typesetter!
In any event, the Royal typewriters now seem to be found only in antique shops. How can that be?
This does not compute
Even worse, the first Macintosh computers that replaced the Royals are pretty much dusty relics as well. Computers are like that — it’s nearly impossible to keep pace with new technology.
But the truly amazing part of the news transition is elsewhere. No longer is the “composing room” filled with items like “border tape” to outline ads and stories. “Exacto” knives are not part of newspaper production either. “Waxing” the printed stories to apply to “layout sheets?” No one new to the business has any recollection of such labor. Fortunately, newspaper layouts are much straighter because of this fact!
Or how about the quaint concept of driving the flats (individual sheets onto which stories and ads were applied with the aforementioned wax) to the printer? Today’s news pages are composed and e-mailed in the time it used to take to unclog the waxer on humid summer days.
I’m not arguing that either the old way or the new way is better, just different. And the process is much faster today.
But the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many times a story was set in type or how long it took to create a page, the words on newsprint are what folks read. And they either like them. Or not. Some things never change.