By: Amany Radwan Osman
I hear the frantic clicking on the typewriter keys and I pity the poor office manager who is facing a long Friday night alone tapping away at the Telex machine. For it is the magazine’s dreaded deadline evening when we need to file our stories to our editors in New York. I bid my cheerful weekend wishes to my colleagues as I head towards the office door ready to kick back and relax. In the hallway I hear my name called and I stop in my tracks. I scurry back into my boss’s office who thrusts a pile of paper in my hand, “Send them to New York now,” he says with an exhausted grin. I smile faintly as I hold back my tears. After all it is my first week on the job and I so want to appear confident. But the only catch is I do not have a clue how this ugly grey unfriendly machine with overflowing holed tape works.
These agonizing days were thirty years ago when staff in a news magazine grappled daily with insurmountable heaps of paper. The piles of telex tape, ticker rolls and newspapers were a daily ordeal that never went away. I still remember so vividly being unable to push open the office door on a Monday because it was blocked by the overflowing paper from the Associated Press ticker service. Somewhere in the midst of the pyramids of tapes and paper rolls were important press releases sent by government spokesmen, different ministries and embassies informing us of press conferences, news breaking announcements and events that we could not miss. Other selected press releases had to be picked up daily in person by the magazine messenger.
Needless to say the process by which we as media received and sifted through different press releases was tediously slow and time consuming. At that time before email and the mobile phone we largely depended on word of mouth, cultivated contacts and the landline to both deliver and receive important press announcements. The rolodex with priceless telephone contact numbers was our biggest data base resource.
The introduction of Multimedia has radically overhauled the press world whether you are the crafter of the press release or you are on the receiving end of the information. Before multimedia finally came to our rescue we as journalists were constantly hungry for information. We were always on the look out for anything new to report or a different angle to add to our story because our resources were so scarce. Press spokespeople who released the news often gave members of the press a haughty and hard to get attitude. Personal contacts and the power of the name of your journalistic Brand like Time-Life Inc really helped nudge open those sometimes reluctant doors.
Digital has definitely overturned the game because now there is so much information out there through visible platforms that were once unimaginable to even conceive. Instead of the journalists angling in to get information, now publication relations and press offices of institutions, organizations and establishments are ready to hand over their material and share it for immediate consumption. We as journalists are always under deadline pressure and the threat of being upscooped by the competition. We now love the fact that someone else is not only ready to prepare for us well crafted content, but is eager to offer follow up support with more detailed information.
That is why the new flexible friendly news release is such a refreshing addition to our life as reporters on the ground. For a change somebody wants to give us fresh updated information that we can quickly scan, turn around or even copy and paste while we are on the go. The digital press release in this overwhelmingly fast paced social media age has actually given journalists a highly appreciated chance to breathe. A little hand holding is always welcome.