Thursday, 17 May 2007

Tely/Sun nostalgia

Talk about nostalgia, Guy Crittenden over at was raised on newspapers and newspaper stories, being the son of Telegram editor Max Crittenden and later, stepson of Toronto Sun co-founder Peter Worthington.

In a recent lengthy posting on his Truck News Blog, Guy wrote about the changing tools of the trade in newspaper and magazine publishing and recalls childhood memories of the Toronto Telegram and the rising of the Sun:

". . . I realize that I am already a dinosaur for the next generation of magazine and media grads from universities and polytechnical colleges. People starting out nowadays will completely take for granted the bleeding edge computer technology that puts everything together in virtual reality. There will be no wax guns or whiteout under the fingernails for them!

"One final thought - all of this reminds me of my own childhood and just how much things have changed in the print media world. I grew up in a newspaper family. My father and stepfather and mother and stepmother were (and some still are) newspaper writers and editors. (They were all on staff at the same time and recently remarried to one another when the old Toronto Telegram folded in 1971.)

"My stepfather was one of the founders of the Toronto Sun, which launched its first edition on the Monday after the Tely folded on a Saturday. I still recall the "wake" my dad held at his apartment for the Tely, and some of the people there getting angry when they learned that Paul Rimstead burned the last edition at a bonfire in a park!

"In those days, the (Tely) newsroom was a busy and very loud place, unlike today's quiet computer and cube-land environment. Articles were written on ink and ribbon typewriters, and corrections were made with pencil on paper (remember those thick yellow pencils?).

"Articles were then (I am not kidding!) rolled into containers and sent Dr.Seuss-like by vacuum tube from the editorial department to other departments, and ultimately down to the "composing room" where technicians would read it and copy it onto printing plates ONE LETTER AT A TIME from little block letters made of lead.

"This was an astonishing skill that I witnessed as a child. The fingers of these older fellows would fly as they "composed" each newspaper page in hot lead type. And remember the most amazing thing of all - because these were print forms, every word and sentence had to be composed in lead type that read BACKWARDS!

"I recall that my father Max (since deceased) was the editor of the Telegram and was famous for being able to compose "directly on the stone." Remember that the broadsheet papers in those days would have three, sometimes even four, editions per day. There would be a morning, afternoon and evening edition, and maybe one more if there was a huge news story.

"The Tely, the Star and the Globe and Mail fought almost to the death to get "the scoop" and I recall that it was against the rules to be a delivery boy for more than one newspaper. You were either a "Tely" kid or a "Star" kid. I never did meet a "Globe" kid!

"This meant that the newspaper, and especially the front page, was constantly being updated. So, under deadline pressure and not wanting to bother sketching out a new front page layout, my dad would go down to the composing room and give directions to the print technicians, telling them to start an article here or end an column there, with the whole front page layout in his head, he'd direct them to compose the page in hot lead type on the "stone" (an actual stone tablet onto which the lead type was arranged). What an amazing accomplishment!

(I guess I come by my magazine layout trade honestly!)

"Of course, as technology evolved, those old typesetters were eventually out of a job, much as I imagine a lot of the older film house staff will have to find new work or retire early these days, unless they can covert their skills with red tape and Exacto knives into skills using a keyboard and computer monitor.

"Closing comment: I'm writing this Blog entry on my laptop from a coffee shop with a wireless Internet connection that allows me to connect to my company's server in Toronto. The software will automatically format this entry and post it to our magazine's website. Who would have thought this possible just a few decades ago, in the era of vacuum tubes and typewriters and yellow pencils?"

1 comment:

  1. From Larry Johnsrude's excellent blog on the Edmonton Journal's online edition. . . .

    Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be
    Here’s a quote that caught my eye: “The practice of journalism is no longer and never will be what it was, and pangs of nostalgia will not change that.”

    It comes from Pierre Karl Peladeau, president of Quebecor Media, which owns the Sun newspaper chain among other media holdings. He is quoted in the Montreal Gazette: Repositioning of the company is ‘beginning to bear fruit’

    This comes as staff at the Quebecor-owned Ottawa Sun have voted 90 per cent in favour of a strike: Ottawa Sun newsroom staff vote for strike.

    In the Gazette article, Peladeau calls for dramatic overhaul of hit company’s newspaper division.

    “It’s obvious this industry can no longer operate under the business model that guided it for decades,” he is quoted as saying. “Content is available now instantly and freely. Paid-circulation newspapers have to change their way of doing things from top to bottom.”

    By content being available instantly and freely, he means over the Internet at no cost or risk to profit margins. Notice how he doesn’t say the content is reliable or even true.

    That’s what’s most troubling about the online revolution. Fast and free is the new accurate. No one wants to admit you get what you pay for.