The late 1930s, when I was active in newspaper
reporting, was an era before the advent of the computer of fax.
The principle means of sending news stories to newspapers by field
reporters was either by telephone or telegraph.
Telephone stories usually were phoned in from a nearby telephone
booth. My first Page-One headline story in the Newark Ledger was
telephoned in from a phone booth in Nutley.
I had been covering the midget auto races at the Nutley Velodrome
and the bankboard track had vertical wooden wire-bearing posts around
the race track to keep the midget cars from going over the top of
the track into the audience.
A driver somehow got his head between two horizontal wires and
was decapitated. The car continued with the body while the helmeted
head rolled down the track into the infield.
I phoned the story in to Sid Dorfman and he wrote it. The Ledger
headline read: "Nutley Driver Decapitated." The event
closed the track permanently and resulted in a ban of auto racing
Sending Stories by Telegraph
Stories sent by telegraph utilized the services of two telegraph
companies with offices in downtown Newark, Western Union and Postal
For some sports events, we might arrange to have a telegraph operator
on hand before the event began so that we could transmit our stories
directly into the newspaper office.
Reporters on field assignments might carry a portable typewriter
with them and write the story on the spot as I did on occasion.
Where reporting was done via telegraph, the reporter would hand
his handwritten or typed copy to the telegraph operator who would
send it, using a telegraph key and Morse code, to a receiving telegraph
operator at the newspaper office.
Telegraph Use for Bears' Games
I recall a unique coverage via Western Union of baseball involving
the Newark Bears International League baseball team.
My friend, Ed Weinstein, a telegrapher for Western Union, was
so adept at both telegraphy and baseball, that, in the era of the
Newark Bears baseball team in Newark, he would attend the Newark
Bears out-of-town baseball games and telegraph the plays by Morse
Code back to the Newark WNEW studio, where they would be handed
to the Bears announcer, Earl Harper, who would read and enhance
them as though he were actually present at the game.
Widest Press Use of Telegraph Operators
My recollection of the widest use of Western Union telegraph operators
was the night following the 1940 Presidential election, where I
covered the Essex County returns for International News Service
(INS) from the Essex County Courthouse/Hall of Records.
All Essex County returns funneled into the press quarters set
up for the occasion adjacent to the returns center in the Hall of
For the more than a dozen reporters there, each was given a table
with typewriter and had an assigned Western Union telegraph operator
linking him directly to an operator at his newspaper.
I was linked through my operator directly into INS in New York
City, as INS did not have an office in the Newark area. In bits
and pieces, I handed my Western Union operator small bulletin dispatches,
stretched over a 12-hour period, that Western Union billed to INS
as 1,673 words.
* * *
INS had considered the Essex County vote as an important trend
indicator, but, although the heavily suburban Republican vote gave
the county to Wendell Willke, Franklin Roosevelt was winner of an
unprecedented third term by a landslide.