When We Talked, Laughed, and Sometimes Came Up With a Great Story Idea

By Jack Limpert

When old journalists get together we sometimes talk about how we miss the noise of the pre-digital days. In the 1990s after computers took over at The Washingtonian, where I edited, the office seemed too much a place of dead silence.

In the old days, when you walked into a newsroom, people said hello, gossiped, laughed. Now hardly anyone looks up from their screen. Because some people find the silence oppressive, they’ll listen to music on their earphones, further hiding from the outside world.

Before computers took over the telephones always were ringing. In my last years as a full-time magazine editor, I’d sometimes go an entire day without the phone ringing—a couple of hundred emails but no calls.

Why walk over to talk with someone when you can dash off an email? Emails are a very efficient way of communicating. They don’t interrupt someone’s work, you can copy others so everyone knows what’s going on, it puts things on the record. Who needs face-to-face conversation?

I tried to learn to live with the silence but never adjusted to the lack of face-to-face contact. At the end of the day I’d often tell myself: You got a lot done but you were at your computer all day, you should have walked around more, you have to talk to people more. And by my not walking around enough, it didn’t make it easy for others to come in and get me away from the computer screen.

I miss the noise and fun of the old newsrooms. There also was a lot of cigarette smoke but that’s another story.

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