This is a 1913 picture of a Utah news reporter in the field. He’s a Salt Lake Telegram correspondent reporting on a manhunt. That’s not an oversized pencil under his arm. It appears more like a .30-.40 caliber Krag-Jorgensen carbine.
The reporter’s name is lost to time, but not the fact that, in addition to being a news gatherer, he also was an armed member of a Salt Lake County sheriff’s posse.
Another example of old-time police reporting is a 1922 Salt Lake Tribune announcement of the death of Phil J. Brady, a former police reporter for the Salt Lake Herald.
Phil “Two Gun” Brady, a journalist of exceptional nerve and daring, was killed while reporting on (and helping with) police activity at the scene of a barricaded suspect in a San Francisco hotel. Three people got shot that night. Only Phil died. His death was mourned by the press at large.
According to The Tribune, Brady “was a ‘sleuth police reporter.’ He usually carried two large-caliber automatic pistols, a flashlight, and a blackjack [club], and was always prompt in assisting the police.”
Now that’s some serious police reporting. I should have been born back then. But times — along with the job — have certainly changed.
I bring all this up to highlight my three-way electronic subscription contest to sltrib.com with cartoonist Pat Bagley and senior religion writer Peggy Stack. The final score was Pat 57, Peggy 50 and me 38. Mine was a miserable showing.
This is not to say that the contest flopped. If nothing else, it reminds me of the huge price progress brings with it. I remember when rounding up e-subscriptions wasn’t necessary, because just about everyone had a newspaper thrown onto the porch (or at least the driveway).
Today, it’s increasingly difficult to circulate an actual newspaper. Even the reporting has changed. In my youth, human beings — most of them wearing fedoras adorned with “press” tabs — dashed out of smoke-filled newsrooms to chase sirens with some risk involved.
Newspapers always have been changing. It’s just that those changes are speeding up. It’s happening to my form of employment and eventually will happen to yours.
The question “What will I do then?” hasn’t really entered my mind, probably because I’m not terribly bright, and I’m old. By the time “laser print psychic mind download editions” have done away with any form of tangible newspapers, I’ll be dead.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, similar shifts are happening in a lot of jobs. I wonder if ice cutters, lamplighters, pin setters, leech collectors, gandy dancers and rat catchers ever fretted that technology would eliminate the need for their professions.
Mud-covered woman No. 1 • “I heard tell of a new contraption what can suck a person’s head flat in under a minute.”
Mud-covered woman No. 2 • “I shouldn’t worry, Flo. Doctors and such is always gonna need leeches.”
Know any professional leech catchers today?
So it’s wise to think about your own career choice. You may think it’s invulnerable to change, but progress almost certainly has a different idea.
The question isn’t whether society will need your profession, but whether it will need you to do it.