Back in ’87, They Feared the Fax Machine

David Callaway, the editor in chief of Marketwatch, recalled his early days at the Boston Herald when in 1987, everyone thought that newspapers were endangered–because people would get their news over the fax machine. But as a survivor and a business reporter, he discusses the transition and what it has been like to work for a ‘dying industry’ for more than twenty years.

“Back in the 1980s, the hot new thing was to deliver news by fax machine, and papers were going to die because readers would be able to get news quicker by fax. They would even be able to tailor the type of news they wanted to receive. Imagine that.

At one of the (news) sites Wednesday afternoon, the lead story was a video from YouTube headlined “Leave Britney Alone.” Another site led with “How to hide beer in the office” — clearly an underemphasized talent but hardly newsworthy on a day when oil prices hit $80 a barrel and Vladimir Putin dissolved the Russian government.

I know I’ll come under fire for stepping into this, and maybe after 20 years I’m in danger of becoming the curmudgeon I always thought some of my older journalistic brethren were. But as long as there are Enrons and WorldComs out there; hedge funds and pyramid schemes; crimes, wars and corrupt leaders, there will be journalists who will find platforms to report on them — whatever the technology.

Indeed, this is not the beginning of the end for journalism. It wasn’t 20 years ago either. It’s a bull market for those who can write a sentence and tell a story and know how to do it across the mediums of print, Web, audio, video and mobile. The stories are there for the taking. Oh, and one more thing about my first job at the Herald. It was owned at the time by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., incoming owner of Dow Jones & Co., which publishes MarketWatch.