The paper improved under Milton Berber. It developed pluck and humor, pulled off the occasional scoop, even won a couple of awards–nothing stunning, but still unprecedented in its history.
The newsroom changed, too. In the old days, journalists were referred to as ‘the boys.” Now many of the boys were women. Crude jokes earned fewer snorts of approval, and ethnic slurs did not fly. Milton demanded that ashtrays (and the floor is not an ashtray) be used. The filthy carpeting was changed, made pristine white again. nd the cocktail bar in the east wall was replaced with a watercooler; the consequent decline in typos was extraordinary.
Typewriters disappeared next, replaced by video display terminals. overnight, the newsroom’s distinctive clack-clack-bing went silent. The rumbling basement presses hushed, too, with the work outsourced to modernized printing sites around the globe. No longer did vast rolls of newsprint slam into the backside of the building in the late afternoon, jolting any dozing reporter awake. no longer did delivery trucks clog Corso Vittorio at dawn as workmen loaded the papers, copies still warm.
News got cooler, quiet, cleaner.
This first novel by Tom Rachman, a London-born journalist who has lived and worked all over the world, is so good I had to read it twice simply to figure out how he pulled it off.
Personal note: I worked at various newspapers from the time I was in high school until – oh, I guess – a few years after the fourth child was born.
I remember the noise of the presses, the cigarette butts on the floor, the liquor bottle stashed in the bottom desk drawer of a reporter – brought out after the paper ‘went to bed.’
The rush to get everything typed, proofed, printed and ready to publish before deadline. The last minute news. The linotype breaking down. The editor hollering into the pressroom (after hollering in the reporters’ room) that the deadline is NOW!
This was before the age of computers and websites and – there was nothing like the smell of the ink and the roar of the presses and the clanking of the linotype and the hammering of the type slugs into the bins . . . ohmy . . . it is a totally different world now.
It seems as though I mention all of the flood losses in so many posts – but after reading this book, I recalled the lost correspondence I had with – for instance – an editor of a Virginia newspaper who mourned the ‘passing’ of the sound of the clicking typewriters and the absence of the ‘boozy’ breath of his Chief Editor and the clamor and rush as the finished paper went to press – all replaced by the silence of computers . . .
Good Lord! Rachman’s book brought up a lot of newspaper memories . . . and again: Good Lord! The man can write . . . I’m looking forward to his next book.