Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Canberra Correspondent & a better method of internet access

For a few weeks now, I’ve been the Canberra correspondent for The Global Panoramaa news website that is written by various unpaid people: mainly university students doing journalism degrees, but there are also a few people like me there.

Naturally, I write my copy on a typewriter. It gets edited with pencils, Parker pens and white-out. But when I sent this to my editor as a demonstration of how I work –


– he was a little shocked, I think. “Woah. Do you really use a typewriter?” (He is the young fun, constantly Tweeting, iPad reading type. He was taken aback when I told him about the psychological benefits of my daily tussle with a broadsheet, trying to manage to fold the thing.) There would be no way to tell I used a typewriter if I hadn’t said so because I type it up again, which always means I find more mistakes, and file electronically. But, knowing that I took the time to write mechanically and then electronically, he asked, “Why?”

I have never been able to answer the “why?” question, leaving me open to tirades of the opposite: the “why not”. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s finicky. Yes, it means I rush in two minutes before deadline. Yes, it means I get inky fingers. But it gives me something to hold; something to put in a folder; something that shows that I actually worked. The WordPress interface, although very good, doesn’t give me that.

So, there I’ll be on Thursdays, diligently typing my copy, taking a pen for a walk across it, and then filing it electronically after I type it up again. This, I thought, was like those “old days” I’ve heard about – a time I’m nostalgic for, despite never having experienced it. Foreign correspondents would take to their Olivetti Lettera 32s (or any other typewriter of choice), write the next world exclusive and then get it typed again by a telex operator for transmission to the newsroom. This is what I’m doing for The Global Panorama, really, except I have the modern convenience of internet over telex.

Not many people had telex straight to the home. Perhaps this is how the internet should work. I quite like the idea of having the internet outside in a room where a computer terminal awaits. Then, you wouldn’t be tempted to spend all day on the Web inside your house. You’d have to make effort to go out there. If the room was sparse you would then be much quicker to get off and get back inside. Think of the health benefits!

I wouldn’t go to the extreme of saying that we should have to go to a Post Office to send an email – like one would have had to have done to send a telex to some newspaper that’s now a forgotten memory – but taking internet out of the homes would be something radically effective, I believe.

But I’m not going to worry about that now; perhaps I might write a longer piece about that later. My immediate thoughts are of deadlines to meet and a typewriter to use.


(The picture of text above became this: http://theglobalpanorama.com/australia-works-to-repair-damage-cool-tensions-with-asian-neighbours/.)


  1. Love it! Stick to your guns, as it works for you.

    P.s. I'm going to be in Canberra a bit after Christmas.

  2. Internet rationing - I can see it coming!

  3. Like Scott says, use what works and what feels right. Regarding internet access, I wonder how it would be if an application were available that would lock out access except for, say, two hours during each 24-hour period. Just the thought gives me the jitters!

  4. That's my favourite moment. When someone asks "why?". I always act surprised that the one who asked the question doesn't use a typewriter, why the heck not and... would they like one of mine. As for de-domiciling the internet - a lovely idea which I tried during a phone line 'outage' for three weeks. I really got to know my neighbour, the limits of their patience and just how much better I focused both on- and off-line.

  5. Good for you!

    Looks like a well-designed website with little nonsense.