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Friday, 26 April 2013

Glorious Reality of Typewriters in Newspaper Newsrooms

The Power of the Press (1928)
"In the middle of the Times city room" ... But where have all the typewriters gone?
Happily, there were a few notable exceptions in the movies:
Forbidden, 1932
Above and below, His Girl Friday, 1940

Mr Deeds Goes to Town, 1936
Above and below, Platinum Blonde, 1931
When one looks at some of the images on the University of Southern California's web page about "Frank Capra and the Image of the Journalist in American Film" (see "The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture"), one begins to wonder whether typewriters were ever allowed into newspaper newsrooms. A couple of things lately have reminded me of the degree to which typewriters actually proliferated in newsrooms. 
Earlier this month I was contacted by the senior props buyer for a TV production company in Sydney. He is working on the upcoming Channel Nine movies Power Games, about Rupert Murdoch and Frank Packer and their battle for control of the Australian newspaper and television industries in the 1960s and 70s. The props buyer wants to recreate the newsrooms of the newspapers involved. In Sydney, these were The Australian, Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror and Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph (the last two mastheads were bought by Murdoch from Packer during the time I worked there). 
When I worked for Murdoch in Sydney from 1969-73, the editorial offices at Holt Street in Surrey Hills were, as I clearly recall it, wall-to-wall Remington Internationals. These are not all that readily available in Australia anymore, so I can see this Channel Nine series of movies going down the path of the British TV series The Hourwhich uses a range of props typewriters dating way beyond the period in which the series is set. I can't see The Australian's newsrooms of the early 1970s, as I well remember them, being recreated with any degree of typewriter accuracy.
Maybe that was a problem facing earlier filmmakers, although the images used to illustrate "The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture" are from movies dating from the late 1920s and early 1930s, when props typewriters would surely have been easily accessible.
Mention of the Remington International (which I featured in a post just last weekend), brings me to the second reminder I have had this month of newspaper newsrooms in the 1970s and early 80s. A member of the Irish Press Journalists' Group on Facebook posted this photo this week:
There is an assortment of Remingtons and an Olympia on these desks at The Irish Press on Burgh Quay in Dublin. The image shows that it was not just reporters who used typewriters in newsrooms, but photographers as well, for writing captions. Many newsroom images to be found on the Internet are of groups of sub-editors or copy editors, and typewriters are noticeably absent. These were journalists "treating" the typewritten copy of reporters, but they made up one just one section of a newsroom, usually a comparatively smaller one. Often they would have close to them one or two typewriters on trolleys, for subs to rewrite copy if needed.
Admittedly, on one newspaper I worked, The New Zealand Herald in Auckland in the late 1970s, few typewriters were seen on reporters' desks - they were mostly tucked away in sound booths placed around the four walls of the very large newsroom.
On smaller, provincial newspapers, reporters usually had their own portables, as they often worked from home late at night, or very early in the morning, after covering council meetings and the like.  It mostly was at the major metropolitan dailies that large standard-size typewriters were to be seen in vast numbers.
I have been on the hunt for old newsroom and Press Centre images showing typewriters for or in use, and here is a selection of them. Many of these scenes are very familiar to me:
Above and below: Press Centre, US Masters golf tournament, Augusta, Georgia, April 1965.
US Masters, 1956
Academy Awards night, 1962
Portland Telegraph, 1920s
US newsroom, 1955
British newsroom, 1970s
Covering war crime trials
Amsterdam News, Harlem, 1936
Brooklyn Eagle, 1942
Chicago Defender
Cleveland Press
Daily Mirror, London, 1953
Daytona Speedway, 1967
Denver Post, 1962
Denver Post, 1964
Above and below, UPI, Fleet Street, London, 1970
The Guardian, London, 1970s
Daily Sketch, London, May 1971, staff being told the paper is closing.
New Orleans
New York City
The New York Times, 1942
New Zealand, early 1970s
The Province, Canada
Republican Party convention, 1968
Watergate inquiry


Winston said...

What wonderful photographs! What romance journalism had!

Scott Kernaghan said...

These are some amazing photos, Robert. Many of them are actually quite beautiful.

Richard P said...

Wow, I just love these photos. I can hear the glorious clatter and smell the ink.

Now we are in a different age where putting ink onto paper, and moving paper around a city, has become "obsolete." Sigh.

Ryan Adney said...

Paling in comparison as my experience may seem, my classroom during the early minutes of each period sounds something like what I imagine a newsroom to sound. The deafening clatter of typewriters and conversations makes me feel a little like a time-traveller.

Tomoko said...

This is cool!