As a trainee reporter, the fax machine was both the bane of my life plus the magical supplier of stories.
Metres of yellow, curling paper, often covered in incomprehensible type, often smudged or blurred where it ran out of ink and frequently springing off the desk on to the floor.
My desk, in those early pre-email days, would be covered in the shiny rolls spewed from the fax machine, proclaiming ‘press release, ‘urgent’ and ‘report’ while hundreds of thousands of words of nonsense council-ese from meetings would vomit forth to be scrutinised by the most junior in the office (then me) for a gem of a news line or a whiff of public interest or scandal in among the jobs-worthy analysis.
But now the fax machine is gone, replaced by emails and instant information from multifarious digital sources.
News is everywhere these days, reporters have information overload and would probably shake their heads in amusement at our former selves, unrolling paper, scrutinising public noticeboards for news in briefs and ringing around all of our contacts for stories, gossip and a chat every single day.
News gathering took effort in those days of fax before it was instantly delivered to desktops.
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These days it’s not a matter of who has built a strong enough relationship to get the first phone call – but simply who sees the tweet first.
Reporters drown in news in brief nuggets as the increasingly digital savvy public contact us to inform, to comment, to complain, to send pictures and video by Facebook, Twitter, Email, Whatsapp.. the list goes on and it’s overwhelming.
The challenges are not finding a nugget of news, but sifting through the rubble for a golden one and remembering to talk to real humans – something many wannabe reporters these days seem to find increasingly difficult in the days of emoji emotion.
Meanwhile, even the unwieldy logistical-machine that is the NHS is now resigning the fax machine to the bin.
It’s the end of an era for a machine that many under 30s will never have even clapped eyes on but was a technical wonder that saved this former young reporter’s life when a stressed editor needed a space filling pronto.