dfp-ronsmith-old-school.JPG Ron Smith
Reporter's Notebooks still have value in digital age.

My job has changed dramatically in 41 years

Journalism has seen extraordinary changes in 40 years.

I've been reminiscing a lot lately, thinking back on my years with Farm Press and how agriculture in general and ag journalism more specifically has changed.

I plan on working through some of those changes in this space over the next few months. I'll start with my job.

I hired on in 1978, moved from South Carolina to Atlanta, Ga., where I set up an office with things that no longer play much of a role in my work.

I bought an IBM Selectric, the finest typewriter available and a quantum leap from the Smith-Corona manual I had used in my previous two jobs — Extension Editor at Clemson University and reporter for a weekly newspaper.

I bought a huge filing cabinet and stuffed all manner of paper documents into manila folders. I still have a small filing cabinet and I'm not entirely sure why. I can never find anything and most everything crammed in the two drawers are also saved on a computer disc, thumb drive or floating in The Cloud.

I also bought a camera — a twin lens reflex — and a large flash unit that attached to the bottom, making film change an ordeal. I had to re-roll the film and then unscrew the nob on the bottom of the camera to remove it. I had to remove the flash unit first. Film, as I recall, consisted of 12 or 24 frames — it's been a few years — so I  carried pocketfuls of film rolls when I went out for interviews.

We shot black and white only for the first few years I worked at Southeast Farm Press. As soon as I got back from a farm visit or seminar, I dropped exposed film off at a developer for pick up the following day. On Friday afternoons, I mailed photos and articles from the post office.

I bought a large cassette recorder, which I soon found too bulky to lug around and too time-consuming to work from. I depended, and still do mostly, on handwritten notes, scribbled illegibly into reporter's notebooks — handy, slim, notepads that fit nicely in a back pocket. I have stacks of them scattered all over my office, some filled front to back and back to front with interviews, addresses and phone numbers I will never be able to locate if needed.

I still use those notebooks, but I also record interviews on my iPhone. Who could have imagined that bit of magic 40 years ago? If I needed to check with my editor while traveling, I hunted a pay phone. Remember those?

I write and edit on a computer, where I save digital files and photos in folders that are still disorganized. Instead of Friday afternoon trips to the post office, I select a file and hit "send."

I rarely buy stamps.

TAGS: Farm Life
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