Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Just the Facts. Mamm"

Henry Morgan and Jack Webb
of Dragnet
Legendary CHS RAMBLER reporter and editor Warren Sparrow, who was well on his way to an outstanding career as a journalist and newspaper reporter before discovering that there was a lot more money to be made in the lawyer business checked in regarding my story about "silence."

The premise of my story was how loud silence is on the radio.

Warren agreed, and added that it was also a "no, no" in the newspaper business.


He explained:

 "Your endless facts drove me to another place and another time. I may be a tad fuzzy on the time, the summer of 1964, but the place was the Winston-Salem Journal newsroom.  

I was in law school at Wake and was working as a copy editor at the Journal.  It came to pass that a long list of your "facts" landed in my basket, meaning I had to write a one-line headline for each of the little gems.  These items were stock-piled in the composing room and used as fillers.  You might say they were the print version of what you said on the air.  Blank space, like silence on the radio, could not be tolerated in the newspaper.  If a story turned out to be too short, a filler was tacked on at the end.

Now back to the story....  Being the conscientious type, I started grinding through my stack of "facts," using much energy to write the perfect headline for each filler.  After about 20 minutes I came upon one which said something like this:  "There are 23,251 railroad ties between Richmond and Petersburg."  By this time I was out of "good ideas" so my bad side took over.  I chose "Useless Information" and sent the completed set to the composing room.
Wallace Carroll

A few days later a big note signed by the publisher (Wallace Carroll) was posted on the bulletin board. He said the paper would no longer use fillers.  He had seen "Useless Information" in the paper! From this point forward the Journal would add extra space between each line of type in order to make the stories fit.

There you have it.  It was my "finest hour."  Thanks for reminding me.



Thanks Warren, that's very impressive. I think most other newspapers followed suit soon after that.  I hope you got "royalties" for your forward thinking!

I also heard a story one time about silence being very loud in the "Light House" business.It seems that the old lighthouse keeper had been the perfect man for the job. He was what you call a loner. He had never married, didn't particularly like people, loved solitude,was never bored, and didn't like working hard.

He was required to live there, and because it was in a very remote location, in all the 40 years he had been on the job, only 2 ships a day passed by. One at 12 noon each day and the other at exactly midnight every night.

As each of these ships passed the light house, they would sound their loud horns. (Those of
you CHS54 grads who remember Lifebuoy Soap commercials on radio know exactly what they sounded like.)

For the first 10 years, the ship that passed at midnight would wake the lighthouse keeper. But as the years went by, he became very used to it and he would sleep right through the former midnight salute.

Just before the old man retired, he got word that the company the midnight ship was attached to was going out of business and would cease its shipping operation.

The day finally arrived and for the first time in almost 40 years at the exact stroke of midnight.......there was total silence!

At that very moment the lighthouse keeper jumped straight up in bed, and exclaimed,  "WHAT WAS THAT!"