Stop The Press and Other Movie Cliches
Reading Gene Fowler’s highly entertaining memoir Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s (Viking) 1961, I came across Fowler’s description on how newspaper writers talked shop or in this case didn’t.
Apparently those old films which featured newspapers as their settings did not capture the true vernacular of the field or their subjects according to Fowler.
In one passage, Fowler relates the following story when he was assigned to Oyster Bay, New York to cover President Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919. Fowler had just finished relaying his story via telegraph.
“Sign me off,” I said to the telegraph operator. So far as I know, none of us (reporters) ever used the supposedly classic term “thirty” at the end of our stories. That, and several other words and phrases which occur in motion picture scripts, was not part of our supposed lingo. For example, I never heard one Park Row man describe another as a “star reporter.” And if one of us even telephoned in with the legendary cry of “Stop the press!” he would have been turned over at once to Dr. Menas Gregory of Bellevue, or else fired.
Fowler’s memoir is a paean to 1920s New York with the central narrative focusing on the great newspaper writers and editors, now mostly forgotten. Featured heavily in the book is is one of Fowler’s mentor’s and closest friends, Damon Runyon, the author of the American classic Guys and Dolls We also get glimpses of William Randolph Hearst, boxing champion Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth and an assortment of characters straight out of one of Runyon’s stories. But Fowler’s stories and characters are unvarnished and real.
The book is out of print but easily available on used book web sites or eBay. For any New Yorker interested in the roaring 20s, it is well worth finding. Sign me off.