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Coffee with Keith

Technology.

That thing we love. That thing we hate. …

When I first entered the newspaper world back when I had plenty of hair on the top of my head, the paper I worked for did not have computers. In fact, many newspapers were computer-free back then.

Stories were written on typewriters. Interviews were conducted in person or on telephone land lines. Meeting notes were taken longhand, a method, by the way, I still prefer over anything else. Photos were developed in darkrooms. Pages were designed on pieces of paper and put together actual size on big boards like a jigsaw puzzle. Local press releases and other information came via the U.S. mail. Associated Press copy came through on ticker-tape.

It was a long, painstaking process that required a lot of hands in the pot. I mean, darkroom work alone could take several hours a day, depending on the need for photos.

Over the years, as technology advanced, newspapering advanced with it.

Today, stories are written on keyboards or other electronic devices. Interviews can be conducted via email, text or cellphone. Meeting notes can be recorded. Photos are taken digitally and cropped and improved on a computer screen. Pages are designed in front of your eyes by drawing boxes and pushing buttons. And those pages can be sent to printing presses hundreds of miles away by pushing more buttons.

In my world, technology has taken some of the fun out of the newspaper business, although I am extremely happy digital cameras came into existence. In my opinion, they’re the best invention for journalists because they removed all that darkroom work.

Darkroom work was, indeed, an art and a talent and it was an enjoyable part of the job. But, oh my goodness, if you made a mistake in developing film or during any part of the process …

Again, as technology evolved, so have newspapers and the process to produce them. Everything involved in writing and publishing a story can be done by sitting in the same chair looking at the same computer screen, and then those digital photos can be added to the digital layout.

Voila! You have a newspaper.

But when that technology gets disrupted in any way …

For almost two full days last week, the internet at The Star was down. For us, that meant not only no internet, but also no phones and no email as well as no access to our server where we store our needed information for each edition.

Couple that with the fact that my entire newsroom staff still is working from home because of COVID-19. Stories reporter Crystal Henry wrote couldn’t be sent to me. Information copy editor Kit Brenner put together couldn’t be sent to me. Pages sports editor Kerry Barboza produced couldn’t be sent to me.

I was like a kid who had his favorite toy taken away.

What was I supposed to do?

The second day of the ordeal was a lot more critical because it was a production day, meaning it was the day we physically put together the paper you read. We call it a “deadline day” and there is a lot of pressure to get things completed in a timely fashion.

But, we were pretty much helpless doing things our “normal” way. Our routine was disrupted.

At one point, I eyed the old, antique typewriter I have in my office. …

One must remember that I know just enough about technology to be dangerous.

So, the original conversation with our service provider yielded little results.

Domke: The internet is not working properly.

Technician: OK, on your computer double click on “My Computer.”

Domke: I can’t see your computer.

Technician: No. Click on “My Computer” on your computer.

Domke: How can I click on your computer from my computer?

Technician: Listen. There is an icon labeled “My Computer” on your computer. Double click on it.

Domke: What the heck? What is your computer doing on my computer?

Technician: Double click on your computer.

Domke: Now it’s my computer? Say again. On which icon am I supposed to click?

Technician: “My Computer.”

Domke: Huh? You jerk! Tell me where your office is and I’ll come there and click on your computer. …

The problem was that we rely so much on technology today to assist us in our work that we don’t know how to do our jobs without it.

So, we tried to come up with a Plan B.

Again, I eyed the old typewriter in my office. …

Plan B involved putting stories, pages and other things from my staff on flash drives and delivering them to me in person at the office. I would transfer that information to my computer and work off my desktop – cutting corners around our server, email and other sources.

I then would travel offsite to where things were working properly and copy and send page files to our printing press.

It would be a process that took a lot of time, just like in the good, old days.

Fortunately, a pair of technicians from different companies finally converged at the newspaper office, put their heads together and figured out the problem.

And all was well with the world again, just in the nick of time.

We got the paper published, and put the last page to bed five minutes before our deadline.

Whew!

Ah, yes. Technology.

And through it all, I decided to it would be best to change my password to “incorrect” because if I type it in wrong, my computer will remind me that my password is “incorrect.”

Ah, maybe I’m a little smarter than I think.

Or, maybe not.

As always, thanks for reading.