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Back in the day, news didn't always break on Twitter

We blog. We tweet. We upload video.

At a Tallahassee bar the other night, colleagues gathered to toast the Times/Herald's Marc Caputo, who's leaving for a new assignment in Miami.

While Caputo engaged in a playful thumb-wrestling match with one of Gov. Rick Scott's aides, Brian Burgess, a second aide, Brian Hughes, took pictures on his cell phone and uploaded them on Twitter that night.

In an ever-evolving media environment, it's fun to reflect on how our systems of communication have changed.

Here are three stories from personal experience that illustrate how far we've come.

In the headquarters of most state capital news agencies in Tallahassee, long before the Internet and e-mail, three words defined our daily routine: "Check the box," we reminded each other over and over. Press releases, veto messages and other news was delivered on foot to the press center's mail room where each newspaper had a box.

By coincidence, I happened to be the only reporter lingering one Monday night in 1993 when Gov. Lawton Chiles' staff delivered a surprising veto of a bill strongly backed by many of his fellow Democrats.

The so-called Noah's Ark bill would have required the governor to appoint specific numbers of women, blacks and Hispanics to hundreds of boards and commissions to achieve what supporters said was a necessary "gender balance" reflective of Florida's overall population.

An exclusive story landed in my lap because I remembered to "check the box" one last time before heading out.

The aggrieved sponsor of the bill was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then a freshman state House member, now a member of Congress and chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

• • •

On Election Night 1984 in Fort Lauderdale, the losing candidate for sheriff of Broward County waited until about 2 in the morning to concede defeat.

Way past deadline, right?

Wrong.

The Miami Herald had just begun publishing a street edition called the Morning Extra, which included late sports scores and overnight breaking news.

Brian Duffy, the reporter anchoring the election night coverage, was running out of time and needed a pithy quote from the losing candidate's concession speech.

We needed to improvise fast.

I nudged Sheriff George Brescher toward a wall-mounted telephone in the county government building, got Duffy on the line and held the receiver close to the sheriff's face while Duffy listened in.

It wasn't pretty, but we got it covered.

• • •

The picturesque waterfront city of Newport, R.I., is a favorite convention site, and in 1974, it hosted a police chiefs junket featuring a weekend parade through the historic city streets. As a young radio reporter, I was assigned to provide live reports, complete with background noise of the famous Mummers string band from Philadelphia.

Fifteen years before cell phones were common, the only way to get the job done was to commandeer a pay phone with the door open and narrate my report as the musicians strolled by.

Everything was going well until a recorded female voice interrupted me with "Please deposit 5 cents for an additional three minutes."

Back in the day, news didn't always break on Twitter 06/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 10, 2011 9:06pm]
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