Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, September 10, 1911, Sunday Magazine, page 7:
"Talking Newspaper" That Furnishes Intelligence Instantly
POST-DISPATCH readers, who are accustomed to having world news delivered "red hot" from the telegraph and cable, will be interested in knowing how a similar service is performed for the residents of Budapest by a newspaper that talks. We Americans take great pride in the stupendous performances of our newspapers, and justly consider them peerless in their scope and speed; but when an important news dispatch is received in Budapest it is made known to all subscribers in the city within ten minutes.
This is a record the fastest news service in any big American city cannot approach, as far as the city-wide distribution is concerned. It would be impossible, also, in the Hungarian metropolis, were it not for that wonderful American invention, the telephone. For the "talking newspapers", or "Telefon Hirmondo," as the Hungarians call it, is only a great telephone system. The service is maintained jointly by all the newspapers in Budapest and is supplied only to newspaper subscribers. A special form of telephone is used. It consists only of a pair of receivers and a call bell, so there is no opportunity of asking silly questions or calling the editor.
When any newspaper office in the city receives a news dispatch, it immediately notifies the central office of the "talking newspaper." The agent at the bureau then rings his signal, which in turn rings the call bell of every special news telephone in Budapest.
After a reasonable interval, during which each subscriber is supposed to have reached his telephone, the agent at the bureau reads the dispatch into a central trunk, which carries it through many ramifications to all the special telephones.
After concluding the first reading, the bureau agent repeats the entire dispatch for the benefit of those who may not have understood clearly the first time, and those who were late in getting to their telephones.
The "telefon" hangs on the wall, but the receiver wires are long enough to reach to a chair or sofa, where the subscriber may take his ease while listening to the news. The added cost of having the instrument installed is insignificant.
The dissemination of news is not the only service performed by the "telefon hirmondo." At noon, at 6 p. m. and sometimes at unannounced hours in the morning, the bell of the telephone rings to announce the time. Nearly all the clocks in Budapest homes are regulated by this means. Warnings of storms and severe changes in the weather, stock quotations from the exchange and a diversity of information are carried by the special telephone.
The service of the "telefon hirmondo" does not end with the practical, but goes on into the realm of the artistic. By a special arrangement all news telephones are connected each evening with a big transmitter in the auditorium of the Royal Opera House, and each subscriber may hear the complete music of the opera, both voices and orchestration, without leaving his home. The "telephone opera" is said to be unusually distinct, as the direct connection without the multiple switchboards, eliminate all the unpleasant sounds common to telephones.
Attending the opera by telephone is in great favor in Budapest. One need not don uncomfortable evening dress nor spend the evening cramped in a theater seat. He can dress as he pleases and recline on his own divan throughout the performance.
Dramatic incidents that have come to light since the installation of the news telephones give sometimes a touch of weirdness to the service and bring to mind again the oft-repeated phrase, "the power of the press." While several cabinet ministers were dining together several years ago the news telephone rang. As the hour for such a call was unusual, the jingle of the bell created great excitement and one member of the party rushed to the "telefon."
Clamping the receivers to his ears, he listened breathlessly for the message, and the others present, watching eagerly, were not astonished to see his face pale as the reading began. He was bearing the news of the assassination of Queen Draga and the King of Servia, which had taken place not twenty minutes before in the palace at Belgrade. The news broke up the party, and each member hastened away to prepare to handle the international complications which were threatened by the tragedy.
The assassination of King Carlos and his son of Portugal, and the recent Portuguese revolution also were reported first by the news telephone.
It may appear at first that the "telefon hirmondo" would seriously cripple the newspapers by depriving them of circulation, but such is not the case. In the first place, only newspaper subscribers can avail themselves of the service, and the advantage of having the news telephone in the house therefore attracts many who would not otherwise be subscribers. Moreover, in the telepbone message, the subscriber is given only enough of the news to make him hungry for details, and he consequently looks with greater interest for the arrival of his printed sheet.
An attempt recently was made to bring the "telefon hirmondo" to America, but was a failure through some unforseen accident. It is probable, nevertheless, that the service soon will be installed in one or more cities of the United States.