Analog Newsroom Memories

This started as technostalgia and finally got me to write something I’ve been trying to get around to for a week… On Facebook, Kathryn Lord, a former Hartford Courant colleague posted this photo of our former Mansfield (Storrs) bureau  teletype machine — just before it was replaced by a 1979 computer and modem. 

I believe the sign on the door is an old University of Connecticut press parking pass that I had stuck there under a Hartford Courant nameplate ripped from a front page a half-dozen years earlier.

While the sign and teletype remained in 1979, I had moved on from being UConn-area bureau chief to be higher education editor in Hartford in ’75, and by ’79 had started the grad school program that led to my leaving the paper in 1980. But I was already riding a wave of memories about that office and the people in it — one in particular — when this picture appeared in the Hartford Courant “alumni” Facebook group. So I asked Kathryn for permission to repost it outside the members-only space.

About a third of my Courant career traveled over that very teletype, from 1971 to ’75, stories I wrote or edited, never thinking that I was part of the last wave of analog communication technology. This was no digital computer and modem operation. The machine had no storage — it sent one character at a time, uppercase only, to a corresponding machine in Hartford. Push down a tall mechanical key and it would simultaneously type a letter on the yellow roll of paper in front of you and signal a similar machine to type an identical letter at the other end of a leased telephone line — where the Hartford Courant state desk crew was busily laying out pages, writing headlines marking up the printout so the composing room could set it in type in proper upper and lower case. 

As “bureau chief” I knew how to change the paper rolls and ribbons, and operated the machine well enough myself to get in a breaking story on deadline when I had to, and to teach the basics to a series of part-time teletype operators, most of whom typed faster than I did. They were the ones who sent off stories by our bureau’s five daily correspondents, me, and one or two staff reporters. I recently learned that at least one of the half-dozen teletype operators I hired stayed with newspaper journalism far longer than I did, and one went on to become a successful author of a book about women executives’ “glass ceiling.”

And last week I learned that the first full-time reporter I was able to hire to share that office has passed away, after a remarkable journalism career that never ended. Terese A. Karmel, known to everyone (sometimes confusingly) as T.C., started as a small town correspondent,  a mom with two kids at home, somehow finding time to cover school board and planning and zoning meetings, being paid a pittance per story, but in love with writing. She soon became a part-time reporter-editor, then full-time staff, and eventually took over my old job as bureau chief. 

But she kept going, building a career as a feature editor, sports writer, magazine writer and journalism teacher. She started writing about women at the University of Connecticut just as the women’s movement and Title IX arrived, empowering women’s sports. She paid attention when others didn’t. She shared an amazing amount of passion, ideas, humor and energy, both in print and in person. 

As her first editor, I mostly just got out of the way. That teletype machine — and print — ultimately saw many more stories with her byline than mine. I am proud to have known and worked with her, and very sad that she is gone.

Of course someone at the Courant has written the more complete obituary, one that doesn’t “bury the lede” the way this little memorial does.

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.

Posted in community, Connecticut, Journalism, Newspapers, personal, Stepno, Technology, The Hartford Courant

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