Years before the internet most people read newspapers to get the latest news. These days so many of us get news alerts on social media sites. When something important occurs, people rush to virtual …
Years before the internet most people read newspapers to get the latest news. These days so many of us get news alerts on social media sites. When something important occurs, people rush to virtual places like Facebook to spread the news before looking at pictures of what their friends had for lunch.
The print media have strict deadlines to roll out newspapers. Newspapers go through a printing press process and then have to be loaded onto trucks to be distributed to newsstands.
Those deadlines created problems when events occurred worldwide after the presses started rolling out the newspapers. Often last second decisions were made that forced changes to front page news. The call to “Stop the Presses” shut down the printing process.
The deadline for all articles to be incorporated in the New York Times is 11pm. The problem in reporting the news is that there is no deadline for events that need to be on the front page. There are many examples of noted events that prompted the call to “Stop the Presses.”
Perhaps the most famous one occurred in 1948 on the front page of The Chicago Daily Tribune. On Tuesday election eve, at 11pm it seemed that Thomas Dewey had defeated Harry Truman in a hotly contested presidential race on November 2nd. The Tribune printed the paper with the infamous headline “Dewey Beats Truman.” Votes were still being tabulated and at 3 am the victory went to Truman. The Tribune published their apologetic but corrected result on November 3rd. Luckily for the New York Times, their election night deadline was 8:30am, the morning after the election. So, they were able to correctly provide the news that Truman had won.
Another “Stop the Presses” moment occurred on May 1, 2011. Newspapers around the country were planning to hold to their usual deadline. The White House announced that President Obama would be speaking to the nation at 10:30pm. Nobody knew what he was going to talk about. At 10:45 he had still not made his address. But television news stations began reporting that there was jubilation spreading around Washington, D.C. After a series of delays, Obama went live at 11:35pm. The nation heard that a mission to kill one of the most wanted men in the world had been successful. The New York Times stopped their printing process and quickly changed the front page to announce that Bin Laden had been found and killed by members of the United States military.
On June 3, 2016, it was announced that one of the world’s most famous personalities was on life support. Muhammad Ali was fading away. Newspapers like the New York Times prepared for the event by having their writers submit stories about him for publication to be printed on the day he passed. However, at 12:20am it was announced that Ali had died. Immediately the New York Times stopped printing the edition and quickly put together the stories about the man who transcended boxing as a spokesman for the world.
Technology has changed the need for newspapers to have rigid deadlines. With the internet, more people are getting their news from web sites rather than purchasing an actual newspaper. Computers make it possible for newspaper companies to make last minute changes to their website to include any breaking important news.
I remember going on a field trip to visit the production floor of the New York Times with the staff of my award-winning high school newspaper. Watching the enormous printing press churn out the newspapers was very impressive. I can only imagine how complicated the decision must be to stop the presses to shut down production so a major event could be reported.
Those responsible for the online version of the printed newspaper have a less stressful option of changing their “front page” reporting. Without worrying about shutting down the printing press, they can simply cut and paste to report late breaking news on their websites. Instead of shouting “Stop the Presses,” a quick text to those responsible for their internet product could make the changes within minutes.
Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.
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