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Thursday 16 February 2012

On the Other End of the Line, with Typewriter

The other day I posted on secretaries, copytakers and other female typists who filled such vital roles in the functioning of business and the government.
In particular, I lamented the loss of copytakers from newspapers and news agencies, featuring a BBC copytaker typing a news report she was taking down over the telephone.
Well, here is who might have been on the other end of the line: United Press International's legendary White House correspondent Merriman Smith.
Smith is phoning through a story from the Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, on September 27, 1955, about a heart attack suffered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Behind Smith is Polly Witte of United Press's Denver bureau.
Albert Merriman Smith (born Savannah, Georgia, on February 10, 1913) was a wire service reporter who notably serving as White House correspondent for UPI and its predecessor, UP.
Smith covered US presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Richard Nixon and originated the practise of closing presidential news conferences with "Thank you, Mr President." This was the title of his 1946 book, written during his coverage of the Harry Truman administration.
The honour, accorded the senior wire service reporter present at presidential news conferences, became more popularly known when it was continued by Smith's UPI colleague Helen Thomas.
In 1964, Smith won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He first used the term “grassy knoll” regarding the assassination.
Smith was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. He shot himself at his home in Washington on April 13, 1970.
Here is Smith at his typewriter in the Press Room in San Clemente.

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