Rupert Murdoch’s flagship London newspaper, The Times, is now broadcasting the sound of typewriters into its newsroom to motivate and amuse reporters, many of whom likely have never clanged away on “hot metal” to write a news story.
Journalists arrived at the newsroom this week to find a large black speaker in the corner of the office. The broadcast began quietly, with the sound of the slow typing building into what reporters described as a “crescendo” of clatter mimicking the noise of the old machines, which fell out of fashion more than 20 years ago.
“Typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s,” George Brock, a former Times journalist and professor of journalism, told the Independent, which first reported the story. “They will have to find out whether a crescendo of noise will make reporters work better or faster.”
â€” Jules Mattsson (@julesmattsson) August 26, 2014
A Times spokesperson told Jim Romenesko, a prominent media blogger, that the project is simply a reaction to the deafening quiet of modern-day newsrooms, with journalists typing on keyboards and corresponding with sources largely via email.
“This is just a playful experiment thought up by our editor to generate some of the excitement of newsrooms,” the spokesperson said. “Some reporters are bemused and some like the hat-tip to our historic past now that digital headlines are so fluid. We are very much a digital newsroom … but we’re also one of the oldest newspapers in the world – 230 years in January – and we were the first to use The Times in the title, so we’re proud of our heritage.”
The reaction around the blogosphere was predictably condescending, but the strategy comes at a time when typewriters are experiencing a resurgence. The Hanx Writer app, from actor Tom Hanks, himself a typewriter aficionado, has become one of the most popular apps on the iTunes store, giving users the ability to type on a digital screen while experiencing the clikety-clack noise (see below) that have made typewriters such a piece of nostalgia.