On my first day at The Advertiser I remember my cadet trainer taking us down to the basement to look at the original printing presses. You could still smell the ink. You could still hear them clunking and see the men buzzing around in a flurry. I could feel the ghosts of newspapers past rushing to meet the daily deadline, putting the latest edition to bed.
Throughout my life I’ve never been able to shake that moment standing in the dark, damp room. I soaked the history up as I did everything to do with newspapers back then. I felt the weight of responsibility, I drank in the traditions, like the old school subs who held up the front bar of the local pub till closing time; pints of ale firmly held by their gnarly hands. Stories of old, spilling from their wrinkled mouths, filling the smoke-filled room.
Today, Fairfax announced the beginning of the end of newspapers in this country. Its sights are set firmly on the digital age. News Ltd, my former employer, will surely follow suit. Thousands of people are facing the sack. Thousands of people who, like me, have newspapers in their blood, will soon be searching for a new path to tread. I’m calling it now – blogging is about to explode.
As I type, I wonder what all the journos of old would be thinking today; the ones who pounded the pavement in search of ripper yarns. I wonder what all the printers who went home with ink-stained hands after long nights immersed in words and stories would say to each other. I bet the old school journos, who used to smoke at their desk and phone in stories from the pub, would have already marked the newspapers of today as a poor reflection of their glory days. I wonder what my old cadet trainer would be thinking. His eyes would twinkle when he’d talk of the old days. He taught us that when an abusive caller would ring, to say: “Excuse me, but do you know who you are talking to?” and if they said: “No” then tell them to “Fuck off” before hanging up. He was happiest when talking about how things were in his time.
Not long after my traineeship, the way papers were printed were revolutionised. Many printers lost their jobs, in their place were computers. I remember watching a small robot-like machine transporting newspaper rolls through the shiny plant. At the time I marvelled at the progress, now it just makes me feel sad.
Newspapers tell stories. Newspapers connect people to each other. Soon there won’t be any people involved in the process. There’ll be no need to actually connect with others, it will all be done from behind a screen. News will be fast, but there’ll be no soul. All human elements will be gone.
It’s a sad day for newspapers. It’s a sad day for the people waiting to find out if they will have a job. It’s a sad for the journos of old who are most likely rolling in their graves. It’s a sad day for the newspaper which will soon be put to bed for the very last time. It’s a sad day for me.