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Friday, 2 October 2015

Trust the Modern Media? How Can I? It's Too Tidy!

Ex-Reuters journalist Jack Shafer (1957-) writes a media column called "Fourth Estate" (an expression which most commonly refers to the news media, especially print journalism or the Press) for Politico, a political journalism organisation based in Virginia. Much of Jack's writing focuses on what he sees as a lack of precision and rigour in reporting by the mainstream media. Jack's piece on Wednesday was headed "The Public’s Correct Not to Trust the Media - But that doesn’t mean the media’s not doing its job well". Unfortunately for Jack, Politico decided to illustrate this online column with what I imagine purports to be a newspaper office (above). It's not. It's a stockbrokers' office. When I pointed this out to Jack, he replied, "You got me!".
How can one tell it's not a newspaper office? Well, on three major counts - first, a distinct lack of typewriters in use; second, it's very obvious tidiness; third - nobody's standing. There was always someone standing in an old newspaper office. (Plus, teletype and tickertape machines were never placed in the newsroom, where the noise would have been a huge distraction; and I never saw an adding machine in a newsroom.)
To get the idea, here are some real newspaper offices:
Los Angeles Times, 1913
Daily Express, London, 1935
Brooklyn Express, 1943
Pittsburgh Courier, 1945
Epoca magazine, 1960. OK, nobody's standing and this Milan newsroom is a bit tidier than those in the average newspaper office - possibly because Italians are tidier than most, or because it's a weekly, giving cleaners more chance to throw out the waste paper.
Ditto Berliner Morgenpost, 1957, except in this case it is a daily. 
Diario de Occidente, Cali, Colombia, 1965
The Recorder, London, 1953. This newspaper is about to be launched (not sure it even got off the ground), its offices are brand new, and it hasn't recruited much in the way of staff yet. So everything is (almost) extremely tidy and in its place. But give it a day or two of full production. There will be sheets of paper, books, ashtrays, coffee cups, glue pots, everywhere - not a square inch of clear desktop to be seen:
The sub-editors' desk on the News of the World, London, 1953.
Now this is the Real McCoy, California 1938
 Los Angeles Times, 1956. Note paper on the floor.


Richard P said...

What a wonderful set of photos! Ah, the Papyrozoic ...

Peter Weil's story in the new ETCetera is about typewriters and news, too.

Michael said...

Fascinating as usual, Robert. You really bring us into these worlds you write about both with your words and with your choice of pictures. I can only imagine how much work is involved in your research!

One suggestion, though; it's often quite a challenge to keep straight which caption goes with which picture, the one above or below. In my browser at least, the caption is closer to the lower pic yet refers to the one above. Now maybe this is a tactic of yours to make us really inspect the pics, and yet.... Is there a way you can make the software associate them more usefully?

(Frankly, I put the same question to 'most every other blogger, too.)

== Michael Höhne