photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum
The photo shows the Chief of staff surrounded by journalists, whose duty is to ‘write up’ the news handed to them by the Chief. To the right is the pneumatic tube system whereby copy and messages are despatched or received. In the background are files of the morning papers of Australasia, for reference. A boy from the cable office is evidently just bringing in some oversea(sic) news, while near the Chief is a battery of telephones, in charge of a boy, to link up with all departments and the big city outside.
At the time this photograph was taken, the newspaper was king. So significant was printing as a technology that this museum, at that time The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, acquired a didactic display on the subject of the printing trade of which this photograph was a part. The photograph is likely to have been taken at the offices of The Sydney Morning Herald. It is also likely to have been staged but nevertheless us a glimpse of the world of newspaper journalism in the early days of the 20th. The journalists are surrounded by the latest in contemporary technology. Their ordered, exclusively male office is interesting to compare with the changes that occurred in journalistic practice throughout the rest of the 20th century culminating in the present day 24 hour news cycle, primarily electronic and augmented by social media and ‘citizen’ journalism.
In the Museum’s annual report the display on the printing trade was listed under ‘Exhibits of Interest’ added during that year. According to the report, the exhibit was prepared and arranged by S.T. Leigh and Company, with the co-operation of Carmichael and Co., Ltd, Edwards, Dunlop and Co., Hartland Hyde, J. Heine and Sons Ltd., The Sydney Morning Herald; White and Gillespie, (Syd.) Pty. Ltd., F.T. Wimble and Co., Ltd. The display, which consisted of fourteen showcases occupying a whole bay, included lithography, photography, three-colour process block-making and newspaper printing.
Below the image can be seen in its original mount with explanatory text. Despite the advances in printing technology, at the time that the exhibit was displayed labels in the museum were still written by hand.
Today is World Press Freedom Day, a date designated by the UN to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom, and to assess the state of press freedom worldwide. For more information on World Press Freedom Day, see the UNESCO website.
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