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