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Panpa Bulletin : November 2011
Head Office Unit 9/4 Gladstone Road Castle Hill NSW 2154 +61 (2) 9659 2722 Branches in Victoria and Queensland National Free call: 1800 204 102 www.boettcher.de Where ink meets paper, that's where you'll find Böttcher. Our products are at the heart of the printing process. They ensure the quality and consistency of your product, day after day, night after night. "We have the tools that help you survive and thrive" You'll find us where it matters most... Rollers Blankets Pressroom chemicals Balanced system solutions Because performance is profit of hacks and headless mouse “SHOOT-oh!” Now there’s a call you’ll never hear again in the newspaper trade. But back in the 1960s it was barked incessantly through the tobacco haze around the Melbourne Herald subs table as deadlines for the four daily editions approached. “Shoot-oh,” a sub-editor would yell impatiently, prompting a copykid to grab the sub-edited copypaper from the basket, put it into a canister and send it rattling up a pneumatic chute to the fourth-floor composing room. A sub once found a decapi- tated mouse and sent it up the chute marked “mouse 1, head to come”. The canister came rattling back with a note saying: “Story too long, please cut tail”. Yeah, they could be lairs, those comps. On the Canberra Times, I was on the “stone” (another newspaper word gone to Boot Hill) on the night the front page was running 15 min- utes late, causing the nervy deputy editor to turn crimson. “Where’s the bloody lead?” he howled. A compositor appeared with a galley of type, tripped and sent the front page lead all over the floor. The deputy editor screamed; the floor erupted: “Gotcha!” The scattered slugs were merely cast-offs and the real galley was then carried in ceremoniously like a me- tallic birthday cake. Tobacco was still an essential fuel back then. It seemed to non-smoking me that 90 percent of the Times staff smoked – cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and in the Canberra winter you couldn’t seek relief. “Shut the bloody window,” they’d cry. The air hung thick and misty. I found out what smoked kippers must feel like. In a 1960s newsroom there was no voicemail, no fax, no email, no Google and no hand-held recorders. If someone rang your desk in your absence and no one picked up your phone, tough titties! So Rule 101 for any newsroom: if you heard a phone ringing, any phone, answer it! Out on a job, you had to hunt down a public phone and laborious- ly dictate the story to a copy-taker. That could be tricky. I once phoned through a story for the Courier-Mail in which a prominent banker became a ‘wanker’. Never worked out whose keyboard was responsible – copy- taker’s or linotype bloke’s – but the sub must have been on a smoke-o . Newsrooms were big on nick- names. Turk, Wombat, Harry the Hat, Pancho, Yabbie, Ron the Con, Fred the Needle. Grog was big, too. As a copyboy on the Sun, I was sent to Lou Richards’ Phoenix Hotel to get half a dozen cans on a hot summer afternoon, and then was sent back because they weren’t cold enough. I returned from dinner one night to see the gun reporter of the nation’s biggest-selling paper slumped in a chair next to a secretary, slurring as he dictated the front page lead. Totally Molly the Monk but somehow, filing clean copy. We typed our stories on time-worn Olivettis and Remingtons, feeding in multi-layered copy paper with perfo- rations like toilet paper so it could be torn into four pages. That had puzzled me before I ar- rived. “You’ll tear up copy paper,” the chief of staff had snarled at me when I rang in the last week of school to inquire of my duties as a bright new copyboy. Weird, I had thought: why not just throw the unwanted copypaper in the bin? Okay, maybe not so bright. I still have my HWT style book from 1969, instructing us always to use ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ for women ap- pearing in court – either as witnesses or in the dock – never just by sur- name like the men. It was a more genteel era. The 1950s style book had required the use of ‘expectant’ rather than ‘pregnant’ for mothers, the sort of sensitivity which made the Case of the Flick Ad all the more horrifying. Set in hot metal on the old Ludlow machine, a 60-point “FLICK” over an ad for that pest-control firm was transformed when the capital ‘L’ and ‘I’ became jammed together into a ‘U’ during production. This unfortu- nate howler was noticed only when 30,000 copies of the first edition were halfway to the newsagents. Same deal a few years later in ad for a Clint Eastwood movie in which the Hollywood star’s sidekick chimp exclaimed in a cartoon sound bub- ble: ‘Go get ’em, Clint’. Reduced to half-size, the ‘LI’ became a ‘U’, à la the Flick fiasco. Galley proofs and ‘shoot-oh’ may have fallen by the wayside, but that Flick lesson still holds true today. In the newspaper game, words can make a real monkey of you. www.panpa.org.au The Age’s old linotype machine in action at Spencer Street, Melbourne Tobacco was still an “ essential fuel back then. it seemed to non-smoking me that 90 per cent of the Times staff smoked” The PANPA Bulletin | NOVEMBER 2011 | 23 BAcK i ntHEdAY long-time columnist lawrence Money harks back to a ‘more genteel era’ of decapitated rodents and drunken dictation Lawrence Money The Age lawrence Money is a senior writer for The Age in Melbourne and for fairfax’s online opinion portal National Times