In centuries past, dreamers used to come up with seemingly wild ideas about means of instant communication. They would be bowled over by the tools at our fingertips today.
In the 19th century the telegraph was state of the art. You didn’t even have to wait for the mail delivery to receive urgent messages from family, friends or business associates. The newspaper was a primary means of letting people know what was happening locally and nationally.
I grew up in the era when newspapers and magazines were king. Radio, of course, had burst onto the scene, but early television mostly tuned you in to reporters reading the news on camera.
In those days newspaper reporters relayed their stories by phone to rewrite men at the office for the next edition. That was pretty much the way it was when I became a fledgling sportswriter in the early 1960s at The Anderson Herald.
At that time state, national and world news came on teletype machines. We’d tear off each separate story, choose the ones to use and slap headlines on them. They were set in type off perforated tape, a then-revolutionary idea that could set stories in type much faster than a human typesetter.
Before I moved on to an editor’s desk we were using computers to type and edit stories for print. And to get stories from remote locations to the newsroom in time for deadlines the company invested in Xerox telecopiers, which could transmit a typed page by phone to the office in six minutes. I remember several times covering Pacers home games when the pressroom aide would grab my copy and send it back here while I finished up the next page. Much quicker than dictating a story word for word, let me tell you.
I took notes by hand for most of my stories, using a cassette recorder only on rare occasions. The latter became routine for most reporters as time passed. And during the latter part of my newspaper career our reporters were composing their stories on laptops and transmitting them via modem over the phone to the newsroom ready for a final edit.
Laptops now are old hat. Handheld cellphone technology has taken over. Before we’re through even comic-strip detective Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio (which became a TV) will probably be a reality.
In my day much of our time was spent on the phone rewriting reports and boxscores from coaches on their games. Now most of that is handled by computers. And moving editing onto computers has greatly speeded up the process, enabling newspapers to more efficiently use fewer people better.
Now even TV news has competition for speed in news reporting from the proliferation of internet media. That hasn’t been all for the good, giving rise to the so-called “fake news” syndrome. But we’ve gotten to the place we can hear the news just about as fast as it happens.