The Literary Digest, June 20, 1914, pages 1483-1484:
NEWS BY TELEPHONE
THE FAR-FAMED telephone news-service of Budapest, which carries the day's doings by word of mouth directly into the subscriber's house, with no intermediary of pencil, type, and printer's ink, has not yet been copied in this country. That is not to say, however, that we have no telephonic news-service at all. The telephone is now widely used by the public press in gathering and disseminating news, either in the service of individual papers, or in that of widespread press associations, under whose auspices this adjunct to the daily paper has taken on new usefulness. The telephone, in fact, has revolutionized the methods of news-gathering in most of our up-to-date newspaper offices. Hroef Wisby, who writes of "Gathering the News by Use of Long-Distance Telephone," in Telephony (Chicago, May 16), asserts that there is probably no profession in the world that has so completely changed its methods of procedure during the past ten or fifteen years, as has the business of news-getting. The liberal use of the local and long-distance telephone has not only speeded up the business all along the line; it has created an entirely new type of newspaper man. He goes on:
"There are men still at work on Park Row who remember the time when a fire late at night in Harlem was left unrecorded until the issue of the following day. The following, which appeared on the front page of a New York newspaper, is not beyond the memory of the old-timer:
'As we go to press there is discernible from the windows of our office a great red glare in the north which indicates a conflagration of considerable size. A full account of this will appear in to-morrow's issue.'
"Nowadays the Harlem 'leg man' would be glued to a telephone, busily engaged in sending a list of dead and injured, long before the glare would be 'discernible' to those in his office. . . . . . .
"The history of press news-service by telephone is like the story of the telephone itself, one of slow growth, lingering development.
"Every one knows how long it took the people of this country to awaken to realization of what the telephone meant. The early struggles of Bell and his associates to give the people what they wanted are frequently cited by those who contend that, as a rule, the people do not know what they want. The popular picture of an editor is that of a man always a little ahead of his times, who is ready to grasp at any innovation that will help speed up his business. But one of the greatest editors of our times fought for years against the introduction of typewriters in his office. The editor, as a matter of fact, has as deep-laid prejudices against anything new and as large a quota of innate inertia in his make-up as the lawyer or doctor.
"The real fight on the part of the telephone people to make the editors of this country take what would do them good began back in 1908. The editors, some of them, protested with the whole-hearted vehemence of the small boy face to face with castor oil. They were content with the present methods, thank you. They did not see that their business field had extended far beyond the resources of any one means of communication. They did not want any more telephones in their offices. Once they had called up their wife and had been given the wrong number. The stuff might make them well, but they didn't like the taste.
" 'Very well,' said the telephone men, 'we will show you that not only will it make you well, but you will like the taste so much that, before long, you can't get enough of it.'
"It was in Ohio at last, far away from Nassau Street, the true home of conservatism--Ohio and the Middle West that is not afraid of a thing because it is new--that the telephone people won their first round of the fight. They got a big press association to put in a telephone news-service. This first service was known in the telephone thesaurus as 'P. N. D.,' and 'P. N. D.' took things by storm. 'Public News Dissemination' by telephone was a new thing under the sun, but it was soon to become mighty popular.
"At a certain hour every day trained men in the offices which took the service put on their head-sets, filled their pipes, and sat down at their typewriters ready for business. Then the voice of the man in the news-bureau's office began to tell of marriage and divorce, of love and death, and two-headed hens, of train wrecks and floods, of tornadoes and twins; and, as he talked the men at their typewriters set down the very latest word of the latest things that this most interesting world was doing. . . . . . .
"The news associations that had hung back looked about them and discovered what the telephone was doing in other professions. They found that in spite of the initial skepticism of railroad men, trains were being dispatched a little better by telephone than they had been by telegraph. Surely, they bethought themselves, if so complicated an operation as train-dispatching can be efficiently handled by telephone, the same thing can be done in the newspaper business, and one by one they came in.
"Soon it was found that further development was possible. News by the P. N. D. process was simply being sent and the receiving end was doing nothing. But one day, just as the evening papers were going to press, a voice came from one of the receiving ends, caught by all the ears at the other receivers, and it said:
" 'Hold your wires a minute, a murder has just broken out! I'll give you the story.'
"Every paper, which took that service, came out with a clean beat on its rival, and P. N. D. was changed to P. N. T. For the telephone service had become more than mere disseminations and the expression, 'Public News Telephone,' covered the service that worked both ways. . . . . . .
"The chances for a real beat are becoming less and less yearly, but the experienced newspaper man realizes that, in nine cases out of ten, the beats come from the live correspondent who uses the telephone wisely. While his competitor is wasting valuable time in the agonies of composition, he is telling his story over the wire in his own way. He leaves the phrasing of the introduction to the trained writer in the office and has none of the horrors of a struggle with the past participle or the attempt to cram all the news into one sentence.
"The handling of news over the telephone in a systematic way begins, then, with the news-bureau disseminating service, branches into a service that works both ways, and takes in short-period talking contracts. Alongside of this is the great business done in haphazard fashion in every newspaper office which the telephone companies propose to systematize as far as possible. . . . . . .
"But it is, after all, the broadening of the scope of service that will make particular appeal to the newspaper man. . . . . . . The telephone covers 5,000 more cities and towns than does the post-office and 10,000 more than the railroads. Accessibility of facile means of communication is one of the first requisites of good news service. The correspondent need no longer hesitate to use the long-distance telephone, He knows that behind that telephone is an army of 150,000 working day and night to keep the wires open for his story. He has heard, perhaps, of the standard of efficiency of telephonic organization. When he has the further assurance that there is waiting at the other end of the wire a man trained to the use of the telephone, ready to take down his story as fast as he sends it, he will quickly adapt himself to the new order of efficiency and his value to the paper he serves will be immeasurably enhanced."