Saturday, December 16, 2017

Memory from the Gettysburg Times

I came across this tweet recently...

...and it reminded me of a funny story from the first newspaper I worked for after college, the Gettysburg Times.

Don Shoemaker worked there as a photographer, and his talent for his craft was exceeded only by his kindness toward me, a rookie journalist learning the ropes of covering Adams County sports. Soon after my arrival, I found myself juggling the dual roles of sports editor and sportswriter in the summer of 1993. Don helped to keep me sane with his tips and guidance on the big teams and personalities in our coverage area.

For him, the toughest part of the job was our newsroom computer system. (I believe it was Atex.) These machines were heartless and finicky. They did not care about your work or deadlines.

One of Don's responsibilities as a photographer was to type his photo captions into this finicky editorial computer system, so that they would be available for the editors. Once, after he had spent an inordinate amount of time crafting a long caption — full of names and places and semicolons and background about a prestigious local organization, for a thankless grip-and-grin news photo — he went to hit the "save" button.

The computer froze.

The completed caption was there, but it could not be saved.

And there was no way in hell Don was retyping that cutline.

Angry but clever, Don grabbed his trusty camera. He snapped two photos of the computer screen. He developed the film. He made a pair of prints in the darkroom. He merged the two photos together and taped the finished product to the editor's computer. Take that.

I kept his caption photo, because I thought it was hilarious. And so I still have it, a quarter-century later. It's a nice journalism relic now, in addition to still being a wonderful newspaper story.

Donald B. Shoemaker died of cancer in May 1996. He was only 45. In addition to being a Spring Grove native and a fellow Penn State graduate, he had been an aspiring actor, an excellent golfer, a college instructor and a commercial photographer at Three Mile Island.

My memories are of a friend, a top-notch photojournalist, and a guy who never, ever let the computer win.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful story that I cannot believe I'd never heard before. Thanks for sharing it!