Kurt Greenbaum’s frantic foray into the business of breaking news came in a world before smartphones and social media.
It was late October 1984. Greenbaum was a semester-and-a-half away from launching a 30-year journalism career that included stints at major metros in south Florida and St. Louis.
Greenbaum picks it up from here.
“Just a few minutes away from wrapping up my second training shift as night editor for The Daily Illini, the bells rang on the wobbly old AP news ticker stationed just outside the threshold to the newsroom.
“My trainer and classmate, Ira Pilchen, and I scooted out to watch the words slam letter-by-letter across the beige paper. Indira Gandhi had been shot by her bodyguards.
“The DI was printed off site. We couldn’t hold the presses; deadlines were unforgiving and the internet hadn’t happened yet. We had to plead with Mary Cory, the DI’s staff production manager, to give us a few minutes to lock down a story once Gandhi’s death was confirmed.
“We got a few paragraphs into the page 2 news briefs with a prominent refer on page 1. There simply wasn’t time to remake the front page.
“Some of my fondest memories of my time at the University of Illinois were in the basement of Illini Hall, among a group of dedicated and seemingly tireless journalists — many of whom had come to the calling in high school or before.
“I caught the bug in that shag-carpeted, dreary basement among the beat up metal desks and the mustard-colored sofa.
“The magic of that newsroom has been well-documented by others on this site who have written before me. I can only add this: Becoming an upperclassmen at the DI meant you’d be entrusted with a special code that would direct copy from the old green video display terminals to the ‘letter-quality printer’ — instead of the ratty dot-matrix printer.
“Behold: Class assignments written on the VDTs we could actually hand in to a professor.”