Associated Press Teletype

When I was a little boy, I would sometime go with my dad to the radio station where he worked. I was fascinated by the Associate Press teletype. I would stand before it, watching the words clatter across the page. I didn’t pay much attention to the news… it was the mechanics of the process. A big box of fan-fold paper fed the thing and every so often someone would come by, rip off a long strip and take it away.

Years later, when I got a job at that same station, I became more familiar with the AP teletype. It was the primary source of non-local news we relied on to fill newscasts and sports reports. If it broke –and it broke often– we were screwed. The nearest tech was in St. Louis and they did NOT like driving to Kennett-bumfuck-Missouri to fix the things. So they got pretty good at phone support.

As I hop from link to link, web page to web page, I sometimes think of the endless sheet of paper that streamed from that old teletype. And how dependent we –and our listeners– were on the reporters, editors and technology of the Associated Press.

And how much of the news that spewed from the machine was never used and thrown away. Maybe 80 percent? No doubt we had listeners that would have loved to hear (read?) every story that came down the wire. But we had no way to give it to them in a 24 hour day.

If you work at a radio station today, you have immediate access to… well, everything. News, images, video. And, increasingly, so do your listeners.

All of this just reminds me how completely distribution defined what we were doing. AP reporters fed stories to bureaus where editors fed them down wires to radio stations, newspapers and TV stations… who “fed” them to their listeners/readers/viewers.

As I look around the coffee shop where I’m writing this, there are several laptops, open to an ocean of information far richer than the trickle that came out of those teletype machines. We’re “feeding” ourselves these days and the menu is rich indeed.

One thought on “Associated Press Teletype

  1. For quite a while at the Warsaw radio station, we had no heat. The reception area had a fireplace, so the first thing I’d do in the morning upon arrival was go to the old WW2-era teletype, rip the stories I needed for sign-on news, and burn the rest in the fireplace to warm things up while I prepped. After being on the air for about an hour, the transmitter would keep the place adequately warm. (Ozark 98 was in a tiny cabin in the woods outside of Warsaw.)

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