1970’s NEWSROOM

AUSTRALIAN NEWSROOM – early 1970’s

My first Australian newsroom back in the early 1970’s. We were called Press, not Media. Which was a bit silly for Radio and Television Journalists.

When I joined, we still had to sound a little ‘British’. But times were changing, and Australian accents soon became the norm.

I was fortunate to start in this newsroom. We had several Journalists with good overseas experience, including a couple of War Correspondents, and they were wonderful mentors.

This is the reporters’ room. Check out the clunky black telephone to the far left. And manual typewriters! I think some of the secretaries had new electric ones!

You’ll note the reporter closest is manually ‘returning’ his typewriter to type in the next line.

We had to carbon copy six copies of each story we typed, and a copy would go to various people in the newsroom including the sub-editor and the Chief of Staff. When a story was chosen for a bulletin and edited by pen, it would then be retyped by our professional typists for the news reader. Most of the male Journalists were self taught typists .. some two finger typists. I had been fortunate enough to properly learn touch typing at school. My Dad knew I wanted to follow his footsteps into Journalism, and insisted with my school that I do the typing classes. Typing wasn’t in my educational stream, so Dad devised a special school timetable for me and convinced my teachers to allow me to do it.

My English teacher was horrified at the thought of me becoming a Journalist, telling me I’d be entering a den of rough drunken men! She warned I would end up an unmarried alcoholic! I don’t think she knew Dad was a Journo! Her fear stayed with me for a long time. I remained a tee totaller until my late twenties, and even now, heading to my ‘70’s, I am a light drinker – an occasional white wine or sake with a meal, or a small shot of my home made lemoncello!

We worked with tape recorders or relied on shorthand in the ‘70’s. The tape recorders when I started were massive – reel to reel when I first started – and you edited by physically cutting the tape and using a type of sticky tape. They were very heavy to take out in the field reporting. Much to heavy for me – I was a tiny girl – but I would never admit that and somehow hauled it around. Thankfully cassette tape recorders were soon introduced.

Computers, mobile phones, zoom chats, facebook and all our modern technologies were still a science fiction to us. News from the rest of the world arrived by telephone or a massive and noisy telex machine that had its own special ‘telex’ machine.

In the far distance of the photo are our ‘pigeon holes’ where letters, notes etc would be left for various people in the newsroom. We all had our own pigeon hole. There’s an old radio sitting on the window ledge.

All the blokes were quite formal, wearing suits and ties. I was reprimanded by my News Editor one day for wearing a very formal pants suit. It was a expensive top label stylish pants suit in black that I wore with a silk blouse tied in a ribbon at the neck. So the next day in protest, I wore a long black skirt that reached my ankles to work!

Most of the Journalists and our newsroom typists (female assistants) smoked, and in those days they could do it in the newsroom as they worked. In winter it was freezing outside, so windows were kept closed. There was no air conditioning, so it would be quite a smoky place. I didn’t smoke and wore contact lenses. So the smoke bothered me on a couple of levels. I would soon get watery eyes. I would often fling open a window to clear the air, but others would quickly close it. I was always relieved to leave the newsroom on a job.

We only had three female Journalists for the ABC in my home State of Tasmania when I began my cadetship. And only two of us working in the field as reporters. How things have changed! Beards and long hair were the fashion of the day for the blokes.

In the field we had no mobile phones, so if you needed to phone in a story you had to find a telephone box or ask to use someone’s home phone!

If you were on a television job and using an ABC car, you had a two way radio to use – and had to say ‘OVER’ constantly during a conversation back to the newsroom.

I was once doing relief duty in the Launceston office (Tasmania) and we had an urgent film to get to Hobart for that night’s news. But we’d missed the plane to get it there. So I had to go out to the Highway and flag down a motorists, asking him to please deliver the film for us. The Cameraman thought I’d have a better chance to get a motorist to stop than him!

My official Police Pass identifying me as an ABC Journalist in the early 1970’s

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