Saturday, April 9, 2016

Charlotte Observer Turns Out The Lights On 600 South Tryon

Observer Staff (including Editor Rick Thames seated front) pose for a symbolic photo and wave so long to their offices at 600 South Tryon on Friday April 8, 2016.

Photo Credit Todd Summerlin

Read Theoden James' story on the last day here.

Watching the long slow death of the Charlotte Observer over the last few years has been pretty painful.  The presses left 600 South Tryon some time ago, the newsroom had been partitioned off more than once, as the staff was reduced and then reduced again and even again. Yet the final chapter in the near fifty year history of the observer Building brings back a lot of memories.

I'll never forget the first night I stepped onto the newsroom floor with a roll of "pushed" Kodak Tri-X. (Through the glass doors, photo to the right) I had 36 photos of a massive fire at the Lake Apartments on Albemarle Road that destroyed the clubhouse and offices but earned CP a paycheck of $100.00. My first check as a stringer for the Charlotte News and Observer. I still have the contact sheet with circles and X's in red grease pencil.

Technical note: Pushing the Tri-X allowed me to shoot in seriously low light without a flash. But wasn't to the liking of Observer veteran lens men. I was told use a flash and never to push beyond 1x because the shadows dropped out and the photos lacked depth because of the push. 

I would never get full time status with the Observer instead ended up doing a short stint with John Kilgo at the Weekly Newspapers and eventually WAYS/WROQ working directly with Stan Kaplan. (I still remember the cigar, turtle neck sweaters and the ashes from the cigar that fell like snow across his ever expanding gut.) Working for Kilgo was a challenge but working for Kaplan was a nightmare.  He wasn't a bad guy, just ADHD to an extreme.

So even at WAYS, 600 South Tryon was at least for a short time, where I wanted to be. Though I'd later figure out the money was better in sales than being a shooter and still better if you sold air time vs column inches.

But for a while because my photos were always big stories, car cashes with at least one fatality, or better yet an arrest or homicide, I was always treated like a rock star.

Nothing I enjoyed more than greeting a "staff photog" rushing out the door at 600 South Tryon with a smile on my face and a roll of 35mm in my fist, saying "I got it all right here"!

In those days no "real" photographer ever left the house without a camera. I carried two, a Cannon F-1 with auto drive, and zoom lens, it was big, heavy, with a full metal body, it was noisy but super bad, and a very small wallet sized Lecia.

I chose the Cannon over Nikon because it was more durable, even so the purists at the time would say the Nikon lens was better. I had the Lecia because I could palm it and make it disappear when I needed it to. The Leica had a huge field of view and it was nearly silent. I could shoot from the hip or car window without raising the camera to eye level. Oh the joy of view finder cameras.

Yep, those were the days. 

Today everyone has a camera so the print doesn't need pay for photos.

And so it goes that newspaper journalists and "shooters" are a dying breed, yet many of those left behind still cling to an increasingly anachronistic vocabulary, including:

Spike | To reject a story. The term derives from the metal spindles which pierced unwanted submissions.

Wires | News agency reports.

Leg | A column of text.

Screamer | A sensational banner headline.

Bulldog edition | An early printing.

Jump | When a story continues on a different page.

Above the fold | A story placed at the top of a broadsheet which can, therefore, be seen even when the paper is folded.

Lede | The paper’s main story, or an article’s opening salvo. To bury the lede is to hide a story’s most interesting facts in the body of the article.

I miss the roll of the old presses, slow and purposeful at first then faster and faster til the sound was deafening. It was if they were printing money on newsprint.

So I raise a pint to those who read this, those who at one time or another knew what the word deadline meant, and those who felt the floor of 600 South Tryon vibrate, those to who the sound of presses running balls to the walls was amazing. And "Cheers" to anyone who ever felt the joy of seeing their work above the fold in color without any bleed.


Anonymous said...

The Charlotte Observer is dead because almost without exception there are zero journalists, a coward editor and editorial staff, and a philosophy of pandering to every loud mouth money grubbing scumbag that pulls the strings in this pathetic town instead of investigating or revealing or provoking anything in the form of real thought, analysis or journalism.

They should hide in shame, not post a picture.

Anonymous said...

Our city's voice for the homosexual agenda,Q Notes/Observer. "Where's there's no issue we cannot divide the community." or "Hiding the facts that we consider to be irrelevant", or "Leading change in your community, one sex offender at a time."

Anonymous said...

Charlotte sux.

Anonymous said...

Cedar are you telling me you gave up on a career in Journalism? Ha! I'd say that was the best move you ever made.

Look at all the writers they shit canned in the last five years. I left when computers took over lightboards and paste up. Never looked back.