By Laura Garcia
The Working Press
Newsrooms are much different today than they were in the good ol’ days.
“Trash-80s,” pica poles, pneumatic tubes and “-30-” are terms from the past. Unless a veteran print journalist makes a trip down memory lane, incoming cub reporters will never know the frustration of carrying briefcase-sized mobile phones.
Today, the “modern” journalist is tweeting, retweeting, hashtagging, following, liking, sharing, pinning and posting instantly from a smartphone.
Reporters can no longer say they are “out of pocket” because editors always reach them by calling, texting or emailing.
That phrase has gone away, just like smoking, swearing and drinking in the newsroom.
“Writing and reporting hasn’t changed that much … The tools. That’s changed,” Mac McKerral said Saturday.
McKerral, the former SPJ president and current SDX board member, said he most fondly remembers the chemical smell of the mimeograph machine.
The low-cost copy machine needed to be cranked and would produce purple-tinged ink on paper.
Former SPJ President Fred Brown remembers the paper would always come out a little damp.
Brown, who retired from The Denver Post and is a member of the Colorado professional chapter, offered “Hello Sweetheart. Get me rewrite” as a phrase that would elicit a transfer to the dictation machine.
A newsroom clerk would play back the recording, which includes pausing by foot pedal, and transcribed the story so the paper would meet deadline.
Brown said he and coworkers called the “ridiculously heavy” machine “The Iron Maiden.”
Transcribing machines are now unnecessary because a reporter can communicate with the newsroom using countless social media websites.
Journalists like Ron Sylvester are live tweeting news coverage.
Sylvester, a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun and former Region 7 director, said he takes pictures on his iPhone to save visual notes he can review later.
That doesn’t mean he would toss his reporter notebook, he said.
He remembers the first newsroom he worked in had an IBM electric typewriter and every desk had a bottle of rubber cement and scissors.
Pia Hallenberg of Inland Northwest’s professional chapter said she remembers literally cutting and pasting when she first worked in the newsroom.
She remembers how nervous she’d be about whether her photos would turn out OK for the weekly newspaper, Free Spokane.
“We had to send the film out for professional developing,” Hallenberg said. “You didn’t know until three days later.”
“I remember that feeling,” she said.
Hallenberg said she loves the effect advancements on digital technology have had on journalists’ ability to do their jobs.
Aside from upgrading to more efficient tools, the mindset has shifted and the vocabulary has come with it.
Now, everything is “Web first,” a term that wasn’t even thought of back in the 70s when he was in the newsroom, Sylvester said.
He said another expired word is CAR or computer-assisted reporting because for a journalist, “It’s all computer-assisted reporting.”
briefcase-sized cell phones
cut and paste (literally)
clanking AP wire machines
composing room and boards
Compugraphic and cold type
earphones for overhead TVs
glue sticks and paste pots
grids or boards
laying in type
linotype machine and hot type
manual and electric typewriters
pica poles and proportion wheels
red china markers
TRS-80s aka “Trash-80s”
unregulated police scanners