GETTING THE STORY: David Lems interviews former multi-award-winning rugby league footballer Allan Langer.
GETTING THE STORY: David Lems interviews former multi-award-winning rugby league footballer Allan Langer.

How Times Have Changed: From pub to newsroom

THIS is part one of our series, How Times Have Changed. We look at how our jobs and careers have evolved by talking to local people. In this part 30-year journalism veteran and QT sport editor David Lems talks about the changes in the media.

WRITING stories on typewriters, developing photos in chemicals and manually loading printing presses.

The newspaper industry has undergone many dramatic changes over the past few decades and I was fortunate to be part of it.

There once was no internet to check information in a hurry.

There once was no Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform to see what people were talking about.

There once were no mobile phones to ring up someone and grab an instant story.

You had to go out and talk to people face-to-face before returning to the office where you hammered your new-found information into a typewriter. Making corrections was a tricky business.

However, one advantage was you were given more time to spend outdoors and at a favourite source of stories - the local pub.

The Coronation Hotel across the road from The Queensland Times was a gold mine of information, especially when former international rugby player and well-known publican Jeff McLean and his family worked there.

You could easily justify an extended lunch provided you came back with several stories, as you often did.

Once your story was finished and typed on to paper, you had to place it in one of a series of special baskets. Local articles were sorted next to Queensland, national and world stories that arrived on a Telex machine that spat out endless copy.

This is where another section of the newspaper - the compositors - grabbed your precious work and typed it again into another system that produced bromides.

These bromides were then waxed on the back and added to a page template on a massive big board.

Sub-editors at the time would then use a green pen to make any corrections before the page was delivered to another room to be photographed in preparation for a plate that eventually made its way to the printing press.

As a young journalist, I loved waiting after my evening shift to grab the next day's paper. It would leave fresh ink on your fingers as you flicked through the pages to check out the stories the Ipswich community would be reading later that morning.

Photos reached the press in a different way.

Photographers would capture their images on a camera (no Smartphone or iPhone) before returning to the office darkroom to have the film immersed in chemicals to produce a black and white image.

After these images were dried, they would be delivered to the editor or chief-of-staff who would then make a decision on their news relevance.

From there, the photos progressed through a number of hands, finally becoming another bromide attached to the page template, along with the text.

Through the years, major advances were made when faster computer systems were introduced, replacing typewriters and the need for so much hands-on work.

I'll never forget the excitement in the QT office when we could share messages electronically for the first time.

The internet was a still a pipe dream but throwing away typewriters was considered major progress.

Laptops soon followed, providing amazing advantages in working outside the office - even at the pub if you could get away with it.

Photographers were overjoyed to swap black and white images for colour and receive more advanced technology that allowed them to replace film with mini cards that permitted images to be transferred quickly. I remember being at the Sydney Olympics where photographers were stunned what they could now capture instantly for the first time under real-life pressure.

Major changes occurred at the noisy old press too, with stages between the journalist and printer gradually reduced to streamline the entire production process.

We are now immersed in the digital age with fast and efficient ways to write stories, access information and get our online and paper products delivered at the press of a few buttons.

But through all the technological advances, the end goal has never changed.

Finding a great story and capturing it the best way possible remains our every day challenge.

Read part two of How Times Have Changed in Monday's edition of the QT. And if you have experienced the changing face of an industry, let us know. Email lachlan.mcivor@qt.com.au



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