History of the news­room

Two of our best ex­plain how shar­ing the news has changed in 30 years.

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Western Opinion -

THE past 30 years have wit­nessed nu­mer­ous ad­vances and changes in so many as­pects of our lives, but it is ar­guable that some of the most fun­da­men­tal changes have oc­curred in the pro­duc­tion of news­pa­pers and in the way news is gath­ered, writ­ten and pre­sented.

The most strik­ing ex­am­ple of that change is the switch from hot me­tal pro­duc­tion us­ing meth­ods and tools with which the fa­ther of print­ing, Johannes Guten­berg, would have been fa­mil­iar, to the dig­i­tal and com­puter-driven and aided pro­duc­tion sys­tem that is used now to pro­duce the Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group fam­ily of ti­tles.

News is a mat­ter of words and there­fore it is fit­ting that words best en­cap­su­late the ex­tent of the mod­ern ways.

Thirty years ago change was hap­pen­ing, yet flong, chase, flange, plate, forme, block, slug, ems, quoins, pi­cas, gal­leys, proofs, lud­lows, com­pos­ing sticks, Lino­types, stones, stone subs and fudge boxes were terms I and my col­leagues of the time used daily in the pro­duc­tion process.

Re­porters typed their sto­ries on small sheets of copy pa­per, one sheet to one para­graph, with their name, a catch­line and date on the first sheet, sub­se­quent sheets num­bered and “ends” typed on the last sheet.

If re­porters were out of the of­fice, they phoned in their re­port to a team of copy­tak­ers.

If they were based in dis­trict of­fices, a par­cel of copy and photos was taken to head of­fice by of­fice couri­ers or, in some in­stances, put on buses and it was col­lected from the main bus sta­tion.

Typed or hand-writ­ten con­trib­uted ar­ti­cles or read­ers’ letters ar­rived in the mail and the text had to be set by copy­set­ters.

Pho­tog­ra­phers re­turned to the of­fice from jobs and dis­ap­peared into their dark rooms to process their pic­tures – some colour but mostly black-and-white.

Much of the work in the news­room was done with pa­per and pen­cils, es­pe­cially by the sub-ed­i­tors to draw their lay­out sheets that when com­pleted were folded and sent down a vac­uum pipe to the com­pos­ing room.

Fi­nally, if a re­porter or sub wanted to check a fact or see a story back­ground, quite apart from a jour­nal­ists’ own desk dic­tionar­ies and note­books, each of­fice had a large and well-staffed li­brary with ref­er­ence books, nu­mer­ous filed news­pa­per cut­tings and pho­to­graphs, plus past edi­tions, some go­ing back 50 years, on mi­cro­film.

No Google search though!

Our hard­work­ing letters editor JOHN LO­GAN has been in news­pa­pers for nearly 50 years – in­clud­ing 19 with Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group.

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