Scoop's Demise

Dateline: Fri 29 Sep 2006

Indianapolis Star publisher Barbara Henry has decided that the newsroom, aka the city room, will no longer go by such a quaint, dated old name. It is henceforth "the information center."

It's all about convergence, which means old mainstream media is trying to put all its wormy little apples into one trippy basket: video, blogs, tv, online posting, soft porn and oh, yes, that thingie called print.

The news that the newsroom is gone was enough to inspire an internet search for an old poem about a newsman named Scoop who came face to face in the mid-1970s with the devil back then -- the computer. Alas, Google never heard of the poem. I did, however, unearth a copy in some old files. I am reprinting it here as a reminder that newsrooms not only were newsrooms once upon a time but also places where reporters had fun. In spite of themselves. Or maybe because of themselves.

First, the history: The poem was written by "two veteran Detroit News journalists who choose to remain anonymous," according to the intro. It was typed out on an IBM Selectric, etc. Dedication was to Albert L. Abbott, "whose hard work and soft heart made it all possible." Couldn't find Al Abbott thru Google, either, but RIP.

Here it is -- a first on the web:

Scoop's Demise.

Scoop Langford was a newsman the day he met his fate.

He was bound for hell, his life misspent, that Spring of '28.

He drank too much for his own good, caroused and played all night,

But when it came to writing, his style was clean and bright.

A scoundral, true, the whole world knew, yet he had a way with phrases,

So St. Peter kept him on a while to publish Heaven's praises.

But then a clean-cut English prof was summoned by the Lord:

His place reserved in Heaven was the desk of Scoop Langford

The angels called a meeting when they learned of Scoop's condition.

They prayed he get another chance to save him from perdition.

The good Lord in his mercy heard the angels' plea,

And sent Scoop back to Earth in August of '73

He made it clear, and Langford knew, that he was on probation.

His fate was tied to one last try at a newsman's occupation.

So Scoop came back to the city room and much to his surprise,

The Detroit News had changed so much he disbelieved his eyes.

The standup phones had been replaced, the fire bell'd disappeared.

Ah, t'was worse, far worse, than even Scoop had feared.

The reporters hair hung down so low that many looked like Sadies

"My God," he thought, "can it be true that all of them ARE ladies?"

But what impressed him most of all t'was the silence in the room.

There was no talk or noise of keys; it was almost like a tomb.

He searched the room for quite a while, a-hoping for a glimmer,

Of something, only God knows what, that he could call familiar.

"What's this strange box?" ole Scoop inquired, as he punched a bright red key.

"Well, Daddy-O," a young man said, "that there's a CRT."

"But where in hell's the brass spitoon that held this place before?

"And why are all this friggin' wires a-danglin' to the floor?"

Ole Scoop sat down before the box, no typewriter could he find.

He peered into its flickering eye and thought he'd sure go blind.

"Don't touch those keys!" came a panicked cry. "You haven't been inducted.

"Get a computer person here, and get this guy instructed!"

"You'll screw up all the terminals and then we'll have a crash.

"Just sit there on your backside and refrain from being rash."

Up pranced a CRT instructor, his eyes a-burning bright,

For he saw in Scoop another stoop that must be set aright.

"Now shut your mouth and watch real close," the supervisor asserted,

"For there's lots to learn in little time if trouble's to be averted.

"Any fool, you can plainly see, can learn to run this thing.

"If it takes you more than an hour or so then you're just a dingaling.

"But mark you well and don't forget the language here is new

"We speak of 'drums' and 'logging in' and of course 'the LO queue'

"That's a cursor...scroll up and down...and there's a password, too.

"Don't cross your eyes, you slouch-hat slob. Is this too much for you?

"You may have been a great reporter, your stories dripping class,

"But if you flunk this electric thing, you'll be out on your ass."

Ole Scoop screwed up his rheumy eyes and curled a weathered lip.

"I guess you're right, you SOB, but I'll give you one last tip:

"Oh I might have been a bastard, and I may have sinned a bit,

"But I was a good reporter, not a queer electronic twit.

"Your CRT, I'm sure it's true, will someday work just swell:

"But I'd just as soon, from the looks of it, do PR down in Hell!"

Dedicated to -- Art Harris, Dick Hopper, Skip Hess, Joe Gelarden, Bo Connor, Dick Cady, Jack Sales, Bill Anderson, Jerry Lyst, Dick Roberts, the rest of the Oldtimers and anybody else who gives a r---'s ass about the way things were.

Comment: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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