By: Dave Astor
Older journalists are among the many newspaper people unfortunately getting laid off or taking buyouts these days — which means institutional memory is being lost in newsrooms. So, for younger journalists steeped in the tools of the digital age, here’s a primer about what our profession used to be like.
Q: Before e-mail, how did readers send letters to the editor?
A: They wrote words on paper, placed the paper in an envelope, put a stamp on the envelope, walked to a mailbox, and stood there paralyzed when they couldn’t find the “send” button.
Q: How did reporters correct mistakes in the pre-computer days of typewriters?
A: They either retyped the page or blotted out errors with white stuff. Mashed potatoes worked best.
Q: When journalists were out of town, how did they transmit typewritten stories to their editors?
A: They folded the stories into paper airplanes and hurled them out of hotel windows.
Q: When reporters were on the scene of a story decades ago, how did they call their editors?
A: They screamed into paper cups with long strings attached to their editors’ paper cups. Bystanders bothered by the screaming wrapped the strings around the reporters’ necks, leading to the development of cell phones.
Q: Before things like podcasts, how did journalists add an audio component to their stories?
A: They recorded interviews on an old-fashioned vinyl disc, added music, put the disc on a turntable in their newsroom window, and cranked up the volume. Disgruntled readers threw rocks at the phonograph, making every day “the day the music died.”
Q: How did reporters listen to those vinyl albums in their cars while driving to and from assignments?
A: There was a special slot in steering wheels for LPs. When the reporters turned right, the records played.
Q: What happened when the reporters turned left?
A: They ended up on Nixon’s enemies list.
Q: How did younger journalists watch their favorite newspaper movies before the invention of VCRs and DVD players?
A: If they couldn’t find the films on TV, they went to a “revival” theater. There, they prayed they wouldn’t get laid off when becoming older journalists in 2007.