When your grandma was a baby…

Do you remember when I first realised I am a crone?

Somehow it was ok when it was only personal. But when it appears in my professional life, that’s no longer a laughing matter…

It’s finally happened. Someone asked me today how the job now is different to… (sudden realisation and pause on the part of the asker) … “different to…” he tried again, uncertainly.

“The olden days?” I suggested, with the obligatory dangerous glitter in my eye.

“Er, yes,” said the asker, on whom, sadly, the glitter was wasted as we were talking on the phone.

He’s pretty perceptive, though, and it’s just possible he picked it up from my tone.

Sighing deeply.

The fact is, the job isn’t much different. Apart from one thing.


When I first started in a middling sized daily newspaper employing about 150 people, there was one fax machine.

It lived downstairs with the ad reps and other money men, and if you wanted to use it you had to get the ok from the general manager.

When State and Federal Parliaments were sitting, the press releases from our local politicians arrived from Sydney and Canberra by mail. Snail mail. In an envelope. With stamps.

When parliament was out of session, the local politicians dropped their press releases in by hand. Just like that. Walked up the steps and headed for your desk. Often, they talked to you, with their faces.

This was how it had been for a very long time. But once we got our own fax machine in the newsroom things began to change quickly. Faxes came directly to us from people who rang first to ensure someone was waiting (because the thermal paper used to jam and then burn on the rollers).

We still got our wire service news via a telex machine.

I was the cadet so I got a portable manual typewriter whereas the more senior journos got to share a pool of terminals that had bright yellow type on a black background and required a whole series of code at the start and finish of each article in order to let the computer make sense of them.

We still had a proofreader who checked every word, every day, from the front page through the classifieds.

This, unlike spellcheck, actually worked.

This was 1988.

That’s right. Less than 20 years ago. Hands up if it feels like more?

(this seems like a good moment to point back here, too)