Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Everything old is new again

Most of you probably think that updating a story for the web is something new, something that has revolutionized the news business.

In reality, it's something journalists have been doing for decades.

"But Grape," you're saying, "there was no Internet before Al Gore invented it! People didn't have computers in their homes!"

Ah, Grasshopper, but television could go live with breaking news. And newspapers had more than one edition.

That latter tidbit seems bizarre in light of the financial problems the newspaper industry is having. Just the cost of paper and delivery is killing the traditional printed word. But many moons ago, most newspapers routinely printed two editions, and some even knocked out five in a 24-hour period.

In New York, the Daily News had an early edition that came out the evening before the traditional morning paper. It was called the "Night Owl" edition. After that, there were five editions, marked by stars in the upper left hand corner. If it read "Final" with five stars, you knew you had the last edition of the day. Other papers called their vampire edition the "Bulldog edition" and sought to grab those readers who couldn't wait for morning, or who worked the night shift. In addition, job-hunters routinely bought the Sunday New York Times on Saturday, when the classified ads section was distributed to stores.

What does this mean? It means that before word processors and websites, reporters had to pound typewriters and often write several versions of a single story. And it had to be published the old fashioned way.

Television, meanwhile, has been doing live shots for more than half a century. And while 24-hour news operations didn't exist, newsrooms operated 24-hours a day.

So when you complain that you have to update stories for the web all day and grumble that this didn't happen in the good old days, think again. In fact, it was a lot harder back in the day.



DDR said...

Yeah but... weren't you paid more back in the good ol' days?

-The Grape said...

Point taken.