Things have changed for newspaper reporters during the last 25 years.

When I started as a correspondent, or stringer, in 1988, I worked from home and was issued a tiny portable computer that sort of looked like a laptop except it wasn’t as slim and had a little screen on which you could see only about three lines of text.

Not being able to see much of a story I had typed on the screen, I had to remember what paragraphs I had written before to make sure my transitions made sense.

But I got so proficient and fast with that thing, I could bang out a story in minutes once I completed my interviews.

Then when I became a staff reporter, working in the Morning Sentinel office, I wondered how I’d ever get used to working on a real computer, with its ominously large screen and orange type.

Luckily, it didn’t take long.

In the old days, nobody had cell phones, so when we went off to cover stories, we couldn’t call our editors as readily as we do now to update them on what’s happening.

There were times, rumbling over those old, potholed roads in Somerset County, when I really needed to contact an editor. I’d stop at someone’s house to ask if I could use the telephone and fortunately for me, most people were happy to oblige.

We didn’t have a fax machine in the office in those days, so if we needed paperwork, it had to be mailed. I remember once interviewing someone in California for a story and waiting a week to get some needed documents in the mail.

Things kept changing.

I think I was one of the first Morning Sentinel reporters to write a story about what would later become known as the Internet.

I went to a small house in Skowhegan that was converted into an office, where I did a story about a young man who was all excited about the phenomenon he said would become like an “information highway.”

“You’ll be able to send a message to someone in Russia and he’ll get in it within seconds,” he said.

I often think of that interview when I look at where we are now, talking to people through machines rather than in person.

Little did we know more than 20 years ago that the people who typed up press releases and delivered them personally to the office would no longer come to see us in person.

They were from hospitals, civic organizations, schools and other places. Now, they just press a button and we have the information at our desks within seconds.

It wasn’t so long ago, just a few years, that we reporters finally got email at our desks.

When we first were introduced to email, the office had only one computer, in the library off the newsroom, for sending and receiving emails.

We had to wait our turns to use that computer, and it was always in demand. It’s laughable to think of it now, where we depend so much on email for all sorts of things — press releases, tips about important stories, communication with editors.

It used to be that we had lots of editorial meetings to discuss the day’s stories; now, much of that discussion is done online. Editors don’t need to come around to our desks daily like they used to, to jot down what we’re all doing for the day.

In-house memos are all done online, eliminating the piles of paper that typically floated around the newsroom.

We used to get lots of mail every day, too, and now, it’s practically nil except for an occasional card or letter from a reader — usually older readers, at that. In fact, just a few months ago, we removed our personal mailbox slots, since no one got mail anymore.

I knew, when that happened, that the world had really changed.

My husband worked in the newsroom in the days when reporters wrote stories on typewriters and, after they were edited, they were re-typed on hot lead machines.

That was a little before my time in the newsroom, but not much. In my college journalism classes, we banged out copy on old Royal typewriters.

If all this can happen in just a couple of decades, I wonder what’s in store for the next 20 years?

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 23 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.