Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW -

Tony Pot­ter has been a jour­nal­ist since 1955. He worked in Lon­don’s Fleet St, then the

Auck­land Star and sev­eral other Auck­land news­pa­pers.

“Grandpa,” asked Ryan, 7, “was there life be­fore Google?”

De­spite an urge to har­rumph “Go away and Google it”, he had a good point; what was there be­fore Google?

In the old days, when com­put­ers had now-for­got­ten names like LC Smith and Un­der­wood (and were much nois­ier), when news­pa­per­men

— it was mostly men — were ex­pected to go out of the of­fice and in­ter­view peo­ple called “con­tacts”, there were other av­enues of


News­pa­pers had things called li­braries, where no such new-fan­gled con­cepts as equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties ap­plied.

To be a li­brar­ian you had to be a woman. They were bril­liant, they could find clip­pings about things you never knew ex­isted.

But if it was a case of ac­tu­ally drag­ging down a bound vol­ume of news­pa­pers, usu­ally col­lated in three­month col­lec­tions, you did it your­self.

Those things weighed a ton and no self-re­spect­ing li­brar­ian was go­ing to get it down for you.

Many re­porters would spend hours in the li­brary, although I sus­pect many were try­ing to

hide away from the chief re­porter or news ed­i­tor, or try­ing to chat up the new­est re­cruit.

Not all lady li­brar­i­ans were cho­sen for their brains.

For fur­ther ref­er­ence, there was the Auck­land Cen­tral Li­brary and the US Con­sulate’s li­brary in Short­land St, staffed by a won­der­ful woman who most cer­tainly was cho­sen for her brains.

They also had tele­phone di­rec­to­ries for each state and the lat­est is­sues of Sports Il­lus­trated and the New York Times.

But as some bloke will now tell you, the lat­ter pub­li­ca­tion is all fake news.

Auck­land Uni­ver­sity was brim­ming with in­for­ma­tion, freely sup­plied, of­ten by pro­fes­sors with witty throw­away lines.

A chap by the name of Mr Wil­liams could usu­ally find an ex­pert on Mid­dle East­ern Af­fairs, sex habits of ex-US Pres­i­dents or dif­fer­ences be­tween Lan­cashire and York­shire hu­mour to call you back be­fore dead­line.

Fi­nally, there was the con­tact book, beloved of old farts like me, usu­ally writ­ten in code so other am­bi­tious swine couldn’t filch in­for­ma­tion, with a list of peo­ple who knew things.

Need an ex­pert on the Bea­tles? Keith Quinn was your man (prob­a­bly still is). Na­tional An­them? Get me Max Cryer.

I even had a cricket ex­pert who claimed to know, in or­der, each scor­ing shot of Wally Ham­mond’s 336 at Eden Park in 1932 against New Zealand.

Please don’t laugh, one day it might be needed. Although, it’s al­most def­i­nitely on Google.

You could look it up, he har­rumphed.

Tony Pot­ter’s ca­reer be­gan in 1955.

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