At 10:04 a.m. Thursday, I started browsing newspapers and media web sites while eating breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant in Wytheville, VA.
The plate that arrived filled with a spicy omelette, hash browns and wheat toast sat empty as the waitress filled the coffee cup for the umpteenth time. I had finished reading articles in the New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Roanoke Times, CNN, MSNBC, Newsweek and Time.
Where did I get all those papers and/or TV access? Online, of course, not on a laptop or a tablet, but the screen of my iPhone 7 wit the feed via Wi-FI provided by the restaurant.
How times have changed.
As a newspaperman, I have spent thousands of breakfast reading a variety of newspaper to gain a perspective of what is news and/or perspectives from a variety of sources.
Pete Hallman, owner and editor of The Floyd Press, urged me to read as wide a variety of newspapers as part of my training as a newsman. In Floyd, that variety included The Roanoke Times, The Roanoke World News, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Floyd Press along with weekly newspapers from surrounding communities, news magazines like Time and Newsweek and any other sources I could find.
While covering the news and taking photos for the Times from 1965-69, the paper received copies of The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, the Lynchburg News & Advance and other Virginia and North Carolina papers. Adding those publications to my regular reading list helped understand how news played at various locations.
When I left The Times in 1969 and joined the staff of The Alton Telegraph, the reading list changed with The Chicago Tribune, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, The Chicago Daily News and papers from East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Belleville and Springfield communities in Illinois.
The New York Times continued as a regular source of news and opinion columns and I arrived for Sunday brunch at the dining room of Alton’s Stratford Hotel with a half-dozen or more papers to eat, read and clip items for future use as reference.
In the late 1970s, the Telegraph installed a computer-based text management system that brought stories from The Associated Press and other sources to our terminals. I often came into the office an hour early to catch up on news around the metro area, the state, America and the world.
That early computer source for news became more useful after moving to Washington, DC, in 1981. My personal computer at home brought access to newswires via online services like CompuServe, American On-Line and other offerings. I it would take about a decade to move from those types of text-based sources to graphic online offerings in 1994 from The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post’s proprietary services like Digital Ink. Both the Journal and Post tried to format their offerings to look like newspaper articles with photos. Nando.net, an operation by the Raleigh, North Carolina, also started in 1994. All of those early operations folded while the papers involved have online web sites and applications to present news, photos and even video online via computers, tablets and smartphones.
As noted in an earlier article, I also scanned wire service news reports on the road with a Radio Shack Model 100, which displayed text on an 8-line LCD screen on a unit with a good keyboard.
Now, I can scan national and international newspapers on a laptop or my desktop Apple computer as well as the Alton paper where i worked from 1969-81 and the Belleville News-Democrat from wife Amy’s childhood hometown in the St. Louis metro area.
Until recently, I kept a laptop in my car or motorcycle for ways to scan news at places like the Bob Evans in Wytheville while I waited for Black Bear Harley Davidson to complete routine service on my motorcycle. I have used laptops on drop down tables on commercial airliners to file stories at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic or Pacific and used a satellite modem to transmit stories and photos from the Far East, Europe and elsewhere.
Nowadays, however, I leave my laptop at home and use the good-sized screen of my iPhone 7+ and a good wi-fi connection to scan newspapers, watch TV news videos and, if needed, file stories or send/edit photos. If I need to type something more, I had a collapsible keyboard that plugs into the phone, which sits horizontally in a slot in the front of the board for viewing.
Technology helps those of us in the news business keep up with the news and make whatever contributions if necessary to reporting it.
A long way from pounding out stories on a manual Underwood typewriter used in the 1960s and early 70s.