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Bluff The Listener

Friday, August 29, 2014

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Our panelists tell three stories of newspapers trying brand new innovations, only one of which is true.


BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. And we're playing this week with Adam Felber, Paula Poundstone and Roy Blunt Jr. And here again is your host in Tanglewood Lenox, Massachusetts, Peter Sagal.


Thank you.


SAGAL: Thank you so much, Bill. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME.

JACK WAY: Hello.

SAGAL: Hi, who's this?

WAY: It's Jack Way in Washington, D.C.

SAGAL: Hey, Jack. How are you?

WAY: Just peachy.


SAGAL: Did you say your name is Jack way?

WAY: Way. Jack Way. Yes.

SAGAL: Way. Like, do you ever use that, like, when talking tough to your kids, like, and that's the Jack Way?


ROY BLOUNT JR.: Jack Way or the highway.

WAY: No, never quite thought of that.

SAGAL: Yeah. That's a good one. Jack, it's nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Jack's topic?

KURTIS: Print is not dead.

SAGAL: You probably are hearing that newspapers are dying. That's because they are. It's really sad. However, this week, we heard about one newspaper that is fighting back. That is not going gently into that good night. Guess the true story of a newspaper fighting back, and you will win scorekeeper emeritus and newspaper reader Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

WAY: Yes, sir.

SAGAL: All right, first, let's hear from Paula Poundstone.

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Morale at many newspaper offices has been low since the digital revolution has put an iceberg-sized hole in the hull of their business model. But the writers and staff at The New York Times arrived at work today to a spirit-lifting extravaganza. Excerpts of the Broadway hit show "Newsies" right on the front steps of their iconic building. The characteristic pluck and grit that has long been the hallmark of newspaper folk may well sustain the industry until financial houses can be put in order claims publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. And that's what this is all about - a celebration of our do or die spirit. Many of the staff waiting to enter the building didn't seem to view it that way. Most waited silently staring at their smart phones while grown men in knickers leaped, tapped and belted out songs in front of them. "Newsies" is about the underage, abused workers who struck against the newspaper companies said a bewildered David Brooks...


POUNDSTONE: ...Following a group of employees seeking an alternative entrance, this industry is doomed.


POUNDSTONE: Backwards it would be sies wen, said Will Shortz still looking exhausted from the recent World Sudoku conference where he was keynote speaker. Columnist Maureen Dowd seemed enthralled. There are so many colors, she gushed.


SAGAL: The New York Times tries to encourage morale with its staff by importing the cast of "Newsies" to do the show right there in front of the building. Your next story of something new in newspapers comes from Adam Felber.

ADAM FELBER: Have you ever been nostalgic for the days when our newsrooms were filled with the sound of typewriters, dozens of them, clacking busily away as desperate copywriters on deadlines scurried to churn out their scoops? Well, this week, some journalist are starting to become nostalgic for the days after that noise went away because for staffers at Rupert Murdoch's Times of London, it's back. Not the typewriters, just the sound. As part of an experiment to make journalists feel more productive and connected, a large speaker has been placed on a tall stand in the middle of the floor for the express purpose of loudly piping in the clattering sounds of the busy newsrooms of yesteryear. A Times competitor, The Independent, points out that most staffers won't get that nostalgic thrill because it's been 30 years since newspapers did away with typewriters and 20 years since one of Murdoch's other holdings, FOXNews, did away with news.


FELBER: And though The Times' Lucia Adams calls it, quote, "a playful idea," a helpful Twitter response suggested, quote, "why don't they just pump in the noise of screaming tortured souls in hell?"


SAGAL: The Times of London tries to inspire its newsroom to live up to the ink-stained wretches of yesterday by piping in the sound of typewriters into the newsroom. Your last story of a newsroom innovation comes from Roy Blount Jr.

BLOUNT: Young people are going back to vinyl for music so why not to paper for news? So the San Francisco Chronicle has set up a special IT line for people who, having grown up online, want to learn how to operate a paper newspaper.


BLOUNT: Odie Milo, who oversees the new helpline, says the most frequently asked question is where do I click to get, like, audio and video?


BLOUNT: We tell them it's not really about clicking at all. Then when they've sort of absorbed that, we talk them through the process of turning actual, physical pages. They love it when we give them tips like when you have trouble separating two pages, try licking your fingers.


BLOUNT: Other questions Odie Milo has fielded are it's so big, why does it have to be so big? And mine won't update. It's stuck on last Wednesday.


SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: One of these newspapers tried something to sort of make their newspaper powerful and exciting and relevant again. Was it from Paula Poundstone, The New York Times that brought in the cast of the Broadway musical "Newsies" to perform right there in front of the building to inspire their own newsies? From Adam Felber, The Times of London, which is piping in typewriter noises so it sounds just like it did back in the day of Woodward and Bernstein. Or from Roy Blount Jr., the San Francisco Chronicle, which set up an IT helpline to help people deal with the newfangled technology of physical paper. Which of these is the real story of an innovation in the news business?

WAY: Peter, as much as I appreciate Paula's story and Roy's, and being an IT, I certainly appreciate Roy's story, I have to go with Adam's story on this one.

SAGAL: You're going to choose Adam's story, The Times of London piping in typewriter noises? Well, to bring you the real story, we were proud to speak to someone who is familiar with this story.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: They have set up speakers in the heart of the newsroom to pipe in sounds of the pecking of a type waiter.

SAGAL: That was NPR's own David Folkenflik, our media reporter. His book about the Rupert Murdoch empire is "Murdoch's World" so he knows all about Rupert Murdoch's paper, The London Times, and their new practice of piping in typewriter noise. Congratulations. You got it right. Well done.


SAGAL: You earned a point for Adam. For being precise and knowledgeable, you've won our prize, Carl Kasell will record the greeting on your very own home voicemail, whatever you got. Congratulations.

WAY: Thanks, Peter.

SAGAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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