Michael Haskins

Friday, December 7, 2007

Deadlines of today and yesterday

My self-designated deadline for finishing the sequel to “Chasin’ the Wind” was mid September. I didn’t meet it. My grandson came in from Germany for two weeks and I got to play tourist in Key West. Two weeks and we didn’t get to see and do everything Key West offers.

My background as a journalist helps with deadlines. Sometimes I had to deal with a two-hour deadline and there weren’t any excuses. I think I recall the editor in Key West at the time, Bernie Hunt, saying hospitalization would be an accepted excuse for missing deadline. Of course, that was before everyone had a laptop. I have a feeling today, Bernie would expect the story to sent in by email from the hospital.

Journalism has played a big part in my life. In Los Angeles, I was a member of the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles and even did one term on its board of directors. That was during my freelance photojournalist phase of life. The LA Press Club, on Vermont Ave. at the time, had a great old bar and life was good. LA was a jumping news town (probably still is) with mixture of brutality and Hollywood glamour. A photographer could make a living listening and responding to the police scanner.

Years before that, in my high school days, I was the weekend office boy for the old Record-American/Sunday Advertiser in Boston. There were teletype machines clacking away constantly with news copy and blurry copies of photos available. Typesetters set type backward! I don’t suppose you can see that anywhere these days, but it was amazing. A lost art.

Everyone in composing wore a funny hat made from old copies of the paper and there was always someone with a half pint in the back pocket of their greasy overalls, incase of snakebite or other serious problems. And, there was the local bookie who kept better hours than the paper’s employees.

The paper is gone now, merged with the Herald-Traveler, and moved to the old South End. Back when I was working there, it was downtown at Winthrop Square. Down by where Steve McQueen arranged to have the bank robbed in the Thomas Crown Affair.

Old memories, good memories, certainly got me off the deadline topic. Back on course. After high school I received an editorial apprenticeship at the paper. I worked for the daily Record-American for a few months, then the Sunday Advertiser, then the weekly magazine that came out with the Advertiser and then in the photo department. I learned by doing and working with some great reporters and photographers.

And copy editors! The newsroom was a large open area with rows of desks. The teletype machines lined one wall, windows on the opposite (usually open all year because everyone smoked – cigars and pipes, as well as cigarettes – and there was no A/C), with the two managing editors’ cubicles in front.

At deadline, copy editors would walk to the back of the room, then walk down the aisle, and pull copy from reporters’ typewriters, as it was being written, in some cases. We wrote with one original and two carbon copies.

I remember the first time the paper hired a woman photographer, Judith Buck, and she used a 35mm camera. The old Rolies used, if I can recall, 126 b&w film and took something like six or 12 shots. Judy shot 36 frames per roll, had interchangeable lenses, and got the opportunity to choose the good photos from many bad, out of focus, poorly framed shots. She could stand on tables, chairs, stairways to shoot for an unusual angle. Soon, though, her photos were making the front page of the tabloid and the paper's centerfold.

By the time my apprenticeship moved me into the photo department, everyone had 35mm cameras.

To be continued . . .

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