Check out Jack Webb in -30- It's the way they did newspapering in the old days.

After a long week at the office, you would think the last thing I would want to do is watch a newspaper movie.

Each year, Turner Classic Movies runs its “31 days of Oscar” where it runs a continual stream of movies that were nominated for an Oscar. I sometimes review the schedule to see if there is an old gem or two I have missed over the years.

Shortly after that ended this year, I noticed a newspaper-themed night on TCM that included the movie “-30-“

I had never seen it before.

Back in the old days, when reporters used typewriters and news type was set by hand, reporters would write -30- at the end of their story so the editor would know that is the end. It was also used at the end of wire service copy.

When I first started out at newspapers 40 years ago, it was still used. I think they taught us to do it in journalism school.

The movie -30- was produced, written and directed by Jack Webb of “Dragnet” fame. Many of you might remember the “just the facts” Sgt. Joe Friday character from that old show that co-starred Harry Morgan before he went on to play Col. Potter on MASH.

The movie -30- takes place in the newsroom of a Los Angeles newsroom and follows the night editor (Jack Webb) and night city editor (William Conrad) through a typical news day. They start out scrounging for news stories, but before the day finished they are covering a major news story. You might remember William Conrad from his television show “Cannon” where he played a portly detective in the early 1970s.

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The movie -30- has some great details that I found familiar. In one scene, the press room calls to make fun of the newsroom for its inability to make deadline – sounds familiar. Later in the movie, the two editors make small talk, saying they definitely did not get into this business to make money. I’ve heard that a few times too.

At another point, the night editor scribbles on a piece of paper how he wants the page laid out. I’ve done that a few times in my life.

What was nice to see was a couple of female reporters in this 1959 film. It came at a time when the number of women in newsrooms were not plentiful. There is plenty of sexist commentary from members of the staff, although the two editors generally behave themselves. To the movie’s credit, the best rewrite “man” is an older woman.

There is seen a cameo by the real Miss Utah from 1959, who shows up in the newsroom wearing a bathing suit. The night editor is impressed enough to agree to run her photo in the newspaper, although it is unclear what exactly the news is here.

The movie ends with the reporters getting the big story, the newsroom making its deadline and two of the editors heading out for a drink. Legend has it that -30- also stood for “thirsty” when reporters and editors had finished their stories for the evening.

If you can find it, check it out.


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Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com.  His blog  “The Front Page” discusses issues about newspapers and journalism. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.



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