By Mike Pare
When Lee Stratton Anderson started his career as a newspaperman 70 years ago, he recalls banging away on a rusty manual typewriter to hammer out his stories.
Today, he operates in a modern digital newsroom filled with much quieter computers as well as smartphones and sleek tablets.
Back then, a newspaper published one edition a day that was often delivered to readers’ homes by a teenager on a bicycle. Others waved the paper while yelling “Extra” on street corners.
Now news flows 24 hours a day online, and it is often delivered via Tweets and text messages.
Anderson has seen dramatic changes over seven decades that started at the Chattanooga News-Free Press, which later became the Chattanooga Free Press and, ultimately, the Times Free Press.
In the newsroom of yesterday, reporters at afternoon papers such as the Free Press hastily typed out stories as they tried to meet pressing noonday deadlines. Smoking was common, though there was no alcohol in the newsroom, Anderson said.
Today, smoking is banned not just in the Times Free Press newsroom, but on the entire newspaper campus. And reporters filing stories for the next day’s morning newspaper work under less pressing evening deadlines, though they file stories for the newspaper’s online edition (timesfreepress.com) all day long as the news unfolds.
Anderson said there were always women in the newsroom, and they were especially prevalent during World War II when fighting-age males were pressed into military service.
Anderson recalls that when television emerged as a major force in American life, some people said it would make newspapers obsolete.
But newspapers continued to do well and he expects the Chattanooga Times Free Press to do so in the future amid the rise of the Internet.
“We cover everything so much,” said the associate publisher and editor of the Chattanooga Free Press opinion page. “There’s no substitute for local news.”
Early in his career, he said, the newspaper was printed with the help of linotype machines, by which characters were cast in type metal as a complete line.
That laborious, time-consuming process faded away over the years. In 1999, a new Flexographic press sharply improved the quality of the printing at the Times Free Press.
A hallmark of the Free Press was the amount of news to advertising the paper delivered to readers each day, Anderson said. While many newspapers offered 30 percent to 40 percent news compared to advertising, the Free Press provided 60 percent to 70 percent news, he said.
Anderson quipped that people would say, “If anybody moved in Chattanooga, the Free Press would cover it.” That included not just so-called “hard news,” but social news such as engagements and marriages.
“We gave the hard news and depth that others in TV and radio couldn’t do,” he added.
J.B. Collins, who worked with Anderson at the Free Press and the Times Free Press for 57 years before his retirement in 1999, remembered when there were competing newspapers in the city.
“I spent most of my life doing that,” said Collins, 94, who covered the City Hall beat for decades. He would “battle it out” with Chattanooga Times reporters on a daily basis for key stories, he said.
Because the Free Press was an evening newspaper, daily deadlines were around noon, Collins said.
“I had one foot at City Hall and one foot in the Free Press door,” he joked.
Despite the changes over the years, Anderson said newspapers are more vital now. The Internet provides “a whetting of the appetite” for news, he said.
“We need them all,” Anderson said about the variety of news platforms, adding they help people stay informed.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.
Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...