Friday, April 27, 2007

Journalism milestone

I liked this column by Steve Blow in the Dallas Morning News: Time to cut out an old journalism habit, in which Steve announces he will no longer clip his columns and file them away.

Ah, yes, the old days. Many, many years ago I started work in a news library, where we were faced with stacks of marked pages every morning, to clip, fold, and file away. In those days the filing was way behind so there were daunting piles of clips waiting. Every day you just added more to them. Blow mentions that the librarians at the Fort Worth paper, where he started, tore the pages against a pica pole. At the Post, we had a piece of sharpened l-shaped aluminum designed by research director Mark Hannan.

Because the Post didn't have byline files, we sometimes had a hard time finding stories, so I started clipping bylined stories every day and filing them in separate folders by name. Then, of course, some reporters who won't be named (but at least one of whom is very well known) would come and remove their own files at the end of the year, so that didn't help much.

I often suggested that reporters keep their own clippings. Who listened? Well, obviously Steve Blow thought it was worthwhile -- he kept them for 18 years.

At least, 30 years since the first newspaper archives came online, it's nice to know that reporters -- finally -- trust them.

(OK, here's a topic for comment. Is it really 30 years? The Washington Post's archive went online on Nexis in 1977. But The Post didn't have the archive in-house until several years later. In 1979-80 the Philadelphia papers went online, in a new Knight-Ridder venture using QL search; the Detroit Free Press and Miami Herald followed a couple years later. The New York Times had an online story abstract database -- starting in 1969 -- and went fulltext in 1981.)

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  • Wow Liz - you are taking me back - I remember how much I hated filing but loved to 'mark up the papers' as we called it then. We used painter guards straight from the hardware store for clipping - and would blanch white in the face if anyone dared rip more than one page at a time! The Tampa Trib was a bit behind - we got our 1st computers in the winter of 1990 and our archive went live in 1991. Glad to know they are trusted now ;-)

    By Blogger Mike Meiners, at 5:06 PM  

  • While you "clipped" the stories at the Post, dad would pay me 50 cents an hour (sometimes $.75 if he was desperate) to rip the marked up pages at home. I thought I was rich. He even gave me my own L-shaped ruler.

    Gail Hannan Bulfin

    By Anonymous Gail Hannan Bulfin, at 6:03 PM  

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