Anorak | In Praise Of The Newsroom Typewriter: The Journalists’ Orchestra

In Praise Of The Newsroom Typewriter: The Journalists’ Orchestra

by | 29th, August 2014

The newsroom at the New York Times is seen as editorial staffers work feverishly to prepare a Monday edition, in this Nov. 5, 1978 file photo. A reader-submitted question related to how newsrooms are alerted to breaking news stories is being answered as part of an Associated Press Q&A column called "Ask AP." (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)


I LOVE newspapers. Working in a newsroom was, to me, the most exciting job I could imagine. And then it changed. I’ve been in many newsrooms and one thing holds true for all of them: they are so quiet. But the Times is trying to change all that.

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

The development, which was described as a “trial” today by publisher News UK, has caused some bemusement among journalists, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to turn the sound off. The idea is one of a series of experiments introduced as The Times and other News UK titles have departed Wapping for new offices in the Baby Shard, London Bridge, South London.


When first blackouts were ordered, Seattle Times newsroom was blacked out by painting windows with black paint. Editors found that this was a little hard on the eyes, as the black paint absorbed most of the light. Next step was “de-blacking the blackout" Dec. 19, 1941. Blackened windows were in turn painted white on the inside of the glass thus making the room much cheerier to work in. (AP Photo) Ref #: PA.9074747  Date: 19/12/1941

Michael Williams, who began his newspaper career at The Times’s old offices in London’s Gray’s Inn Road in 1973, and is now a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, saw merit in the idea.

“People feel to some extent disengaged from the thrill of producing a newspaper, which is galvanising”, he said, referring to the relative quiet of modern newsrooms, where interviews might be conducted by email or instant messaging rather than phone, and where digital publishing is continuous.

Reporters Bob Woodward, right, and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting of the Watergate case won a Pulitzer Prize, sit in the newsroom of the Washington Post, May 7, 1973. (AP Photo) Small groups stand and talk in the editorial room of Chicago Today after it was announced that the afternoon paper will cease publication in September, Aug. 23, 1974. One of five Chicago daily newspapers, Chicago Today is owned by the Chicago Tribune, which announced that it will begin publication of an afternoon paper in September, in addition to its morning publication. (AP Photo/Larry Stoddard) Reg Murphy, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner, in the Examiner newsroom on June 16, 1977 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jim Palmer)

* John Witherow, Editor of The Times, said he was “old enough to have used typewriters” and explained why he wanted to recreate the excitement of pre-digital newsrooms. “The problem with newspapers now is that keyboards are so silent you could be working in a bank or an insurance company. But newspapers are different.”


The Daily Mail newspaper in operation in room 55 at Carmelite House, Fleet Street. Ref #: PA.5576966  Date: 01/01/1913



* According to Clinton Mills, chief executive officer of Hitcents, the Kentucky-based creative agency that developed the app, the appeal lies in hearing the rhythm of one’s work.


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Posted: 29th, August 2014 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink