The attacks in Brussels are taking me back 31 years.
When I first arrived at USA Today, I was assigned to the library (which served as the news clippings morgue) as well as a research center. It was also where the photos were kept. I spent the first several days sorting photos of the newly simultaneous Rome and Vienna terrorism attacks which killed 20 people.
Back then the photos for storage were printed out on three photo sets which combined would give the full photo. They were filed in manila envelopes.
These were the photos that went out on the wires but not necessarily into newspapers or television. The four gunmen terrorists came in with guns and slaughtered people. There were many photos of the bodies. The newswires gave the raw visceral moment – and they were often inaccurate but were building blocks to the excellent articles that came later.
On 9/11/2001, the mobile system in Washington DC crashed because everyone wanted to call home. I was out on the National Mall and saw people lined up for the single landline, to call to tell people that they were okay. Actually, at that moment, they weren’t. The plane that was taken down by passengers over Pennsylvania was still in the air heading for Washington.
Then the photos were in news archives. Only a few were out on the Internet. Twitter didn’t exist until 2005.
The terrorism attacks came on. London in 2005. Spain in 2004. More around the world
A decade later, Paris in 2015. Brussels in 2016.
Technology has changed and now it’s a fire hose directly to the public. Now coverage is instantanious but remains as fragmented as the newswires of the 1980s.
Now photos will come from the Internet. If you are there, twitter your picture, post what happened, do it quickly and don’t get in the way of authorities.
In 1985, the pictures were in print; now they’re in Facebook. Terrorism remains.
I’ve worked with the news media since 1985, seen and heard things from journalists that never made print. I will not let terrorism stop me from enjoying life.
Now, I’m now going to eat some Belgium chocolate and take some flowers to the Embassy here in D.C.
Then, I’m going to see the cherry blossoms downtown. Photo to come.