Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rip, Run and Read

That's the way it was at local radio stations back when announcers and DJ's also did the newscasts, usually "on the hour, every hour." We would put a record on, go to the AP ticker machine, rip off the latest five minute summary. and run back to the studio in time to read the news.

"This just in....from the WGIV newsroom...."

I always got a smile out of that. The WGIV newsroom consisted of one AP wire machine (ticker) and the only place that it would fit in that station's small building was the men's room.

Those old news tickers became obsolete when computers came along but seeing one of those museum pieces again brought back a lot of memories. Not all of them good. No one who was near one on November 22, 1963 can forget the constant ringing of the “bulletin” bell alerting newsrooms of the tragedy in Dallas.

On a lighter note, we announcers and DJ's had to learn to read our newscasts from copy produced by those machines hourly. In addition to 5 minute newscasts, stock market reports, weather forecasts, farm news and sports scores all were sent via those news tickers.

Some announcers used to pride themselves on their ability to read copy “cold.” In other words...read it like you knew what you were talking about.....without having read it over beforehand. Usually, you had time to pre-read the stories, but occasionally you didn't. However, some announcers got over confidant in their "cold reading" ability and never read the copy before they went on the air. (That was known as the "Real Men Never Read Copy but Once" syndrome.)

Most of the time they got away with it, but inevitably, it would come back to bite them.

Sending news from AP office
The flaw in the system was the fact that if the typist at the AP newsroom on the other end of the wire were to make a mistake...such as a typo or wrong word....the mistake would not be corrected in the copy until the very end of the story.

For example, the copy might say “obsolete”...instead of “absolute,” but any mistakes the typist made would keep repeating themselves throughout the story.... and corrections would only appear at the bottom of the copy..

The correction would say something like, “the word OBSOLETE in the above story should read ABSOLUTE.”

So unless the announcer was paying attention, (which we seldom were,) instead of thinking only of how he sounded.....the listener could be treated to some very strange and puzzling stories

For example a friend of mine was driving to work early one morning listening to the radio and the announcer was reading the farm report.

It was spring and the story was about planting time. He thought he heard the announcer say something about it being a good time to plant cats.

My friend thought that he must have misunderstood the announcer, so he turned up the radio and sure enough, he heard it again several times, “.......many experts say this is the best time of the year to plant your cats.......etc., etc....."

When the report ended.......there was a noticable pause....followed by the announcer saying,

“the word CATS in the above story should read OATS.”