The late 1930s, when I was active
in newspaper reporting, was an era before the advent of the computer of fax.
The principle means of sending news stories to newspapers by field reporters was
either by telephone or telegraph.
Telephone stories usually were
phoned in from a nearby telephone booth. My first Page-One headline story
in the Newark Ledger was telephoned in from a phone booth in Nutley.
I had been covering the midget
auto races at the Nutley Velodrome and the bankboard track had vertical wooden
wire-bearing posts around the race track to keep the midget cars from going over
the top of the track into the audience.
A driver somehow got his head
between two horizontal wires and was decapitated. The car continued with
the body while the helmeted head rolled down the track into the infield.
I phoned the story in to Sid
Dorfman and he wrote it. The Ledger headline read: "Nutley Driver Decapitated."
The event closed the track permanently and resulted in a ban of auto racing in
Sending Stories by Telegraph
Stories sent by telegraph utilized
the services of two telegraph companies with offices in downtown Newark, Western
Union and Postal Telegraph.
For some sports events, we might
arrange to have a telegraph operator on hand before the event began so that we
could transmit our stories directly into the newspaper office.
Reporters on field assignments
might carry a portable typewriter with them and write the story on the spot as I
did on occasion.
Where reporting was done via
telegraph, the reporter would hand his handwritten or typed copy to the
telegraph operator who would send it, using a telegraph key and Morse code, to a
receiving telegraph operator at the newspaper office.
Telegraph Use for Bears' Games
I recall a unique coverage via
Western Union of baseball involving the Newark Bears International League
My friend, Ed Weinstein, a
telegrapher for Western Union, was so adept at both telegraphy and baseball,
that, in the era of the Newark Bears baseball team in Newark, he would attend
the Newark Bears out-of-town baseball games and telegraph the plays by Morse
Code back to the Newark WNEW studio, where they would be handed to the Bears
announcer, Earl Harper, who would read and enhance them as though he were
actually present at the game.
Widest Press Use of Telegraph Operators
My recollection of the widest use
of Western Union telegraph operators was the night following the 1940
Presidential election, where I covered the Essex County returns for
International News Service (INS) from the Essex County Courthouse/Hall of
All Essex County returns funneled
into the press quarters set up for the occasion adjacent to the returns center
in the Hall of Records building.
For the more than a dozen
reporters there, each was given a table with typewriter and had an assigned
Western Union telegraph operator linking him directly to an operator at his
I was linked through my operator
directly into INS in New York City, as INS did not have an office in the Newark
area. In bits and pieces, I handed my Western Union operator small
bulletin dispatches, stretched over a 12-hour period, that Western Union billed
to INS as 1,673 words.
* * *
INS had considered the Essex
County vote as an important trend indicator, but, although the heavily suburban
Republican vote gave the county to Wendell Willke, Franklin Roosevelt was winner
of an unprecedented third term by a landslide.
* * *
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