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.
I am so sad.
Oh Bianca, have left comments on Facebook just now but Kester and I had a reunion/redundancy party at our former newspaper on Saturday night. As we left we both talked about how difficult it would be to front up each day knowing that the industry was dying around you. How would you keep up the enthusiasm? And BTW, the party, it was held where once the printers were housed. And BTW x 2 … the redundancy people were very happy to get payouts.
Give me paper anyday! We live in a very crazy world.
Even by the time I jumped on board, I could tell newspapers were a shadow of their former selves. How I wished I could swig a whisky and light up a Marlboro at my desk! And I don’t even smoke any more. The camaraderie, the atmosphere has all but gone. And I died a little every time they chose a front page story based on how much buzz it would generate in the comments section once posted online. Forget the news – what’s going to outrage people so much they’ll spout venom on the internet? Get that click rate up! It’s a sad day when the industry who is charged with informing the public on things that concern them is being treated so shallowly.
What about people who haven’t joined the digital age? How will they get their news? How can something that has been around for hundreds of years become obsolete? Is this evolution? Or just plain sad? Can I possibly ask ANY more questions? No?
It’s so sad to see some things lost due to innovation – newspapers are one of them. I still laugh when I think about how my brother used to end up with a black-tipped nose every Saturday when he sat down to read the paper and would pensively pinch the tip of his nose as he read! The good ol’ days were good…
So beautifully said B. It is indeed a very sad day for one of the great traditions and industries of our time…
I think this is a shame. What about people who don’t have internet access? What about those who love to spread the paper over the table and read at leisure then do the puzzles? What will we use to wrap our rubbish in? What will we use to line the budgie cage? What will we use to wrap our glassware and crockery when moving house?
I am all for new media, but I don’t want to see either newspapers or books go. It’s part of our culture, and something we should treasure and hold on to.
It is pretty sad, these are also so many questionable decisions regarding media ownership to discuss.