The Nostalgia Of The Good Old Days

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When I started out in news radio back when the first Bush was in office, things were a bit different. One AP teletype screaming random bells each time a story came in was set up next to a coffee maker in the kitchen because it was so loud and more than distracting so we hid it away like you would a crazy cousin in any William Faulkner novel.

I’ve written before about when we transferred over to a computerized system that was pretty high-tech in the day, and being that I worked in a rural market, we were the only one in the county. When I was on the air, although it didn’t have that distinctive tone that the teletype did, it still would ding anytime a new story came down the pike. Celebrity deaths, the O.J. Bronco ride, the presidential race of Bush and Clinton, it was all there ringing that little bell as news stormed in like paratroopers and I can only assume that a bunch of angels were getting their wings repeated (thanks of course, to the news business.)

Yes, there is a nostalgia for my generation as well as those who came before me. I realize that there are new journalists who will never get to hear the bell on the teletype, and quite frankly, I’m excited about this new dawn of journalism. (I’m assuming they will hear the subtle ding on their Blackberrys and iPhones, as that’s what is happening to me these days.)

And, of course, I am reminded of this from the wonderful blog “Stuff Journalists Like” this morning.

There was a time when being a journalist mattered. A time when a press pass not only got a journalist past the crime tape but also maybe a free drink on the house, a girl’s number and a little respect.

There was a time when being a journalist meant drinking whiskey in the newsroom. A time when journalists were more concerned about sources and stories than web-updates and blogs. A time when newspapers were king and the biggest worry in the newsroom was filling the news hole. These were times when journalists loved newspapers and newspapers loved them back.

I never drank whiskey in the newsroom but there has been a beer on more than one occasion as well as I had an ashtray on my desk.

With that said, journalists still love newspapers, we are just trying to figure out where we can still deliver the news effectively. Nothing is going to take away a journalists’ joy over their craft.

It’s just evolving.

And there may not be whiskey in a bottom desk drawer, but there is still a tight network of us that try to keep abreast of what’s new, what our brains can comprehend with new technology and our willingness to grow in this industry.
I point you to Wired Journalists if you are looking for a network of those of us with the same mission and that is honoring the past of our industry and looking toward the future.

Tim Ghianni, whom I met recently at a video training, has a poignant post this week about Eddie Jones, who died over the weekend and was the editor of the now-defunct Nashville Banner. He writes:

Eddie was the kind of editor who stood behind his staff rather than stabbed his staff in the back.
When I was in charge of political coverage, sometimes we pissed off the politicians. They would come to Eddie. Instead of caving in, Eddie would call me into his office. Often with the “offended” … and by the time the meeting was over, there were handshakes all around.

He also encouraged me to write a slice-of-life column, detailing the concerns of the common man in Nashville. Yes, it was gritty and yes the people I wrote about weren’t in the demographic charts of those who figure into the newspaper coverage formula these days.

But he knew these people mattered. I didn’t have to explain to him that the purpose behind my column was to show that we are more alike than different, that we share the same hopes, dreams, fears and ambitions, whether we are living in a tent city, a tenement or a luxury condo.

A slice of perspective of those who led the way in Ghianni’s post is critical for all of us to know and, quite honestly, to honor. Those who came before us had the same objectives as those of us leading the way now.

Journalism is journalism, no matter what the platform. It’s just now everyone has the AP teletype machine on their home computers.

We just are going to have to think outside the box and remember that as everything has changed, the bottom line is the goal is still the same.

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