January 24, 2012
I stopped the presses once. The 1977 Hanafi siege of D.C.’s city hall ended after the press run had started. It was the lead story in the Birmingham Post-Herald and I was the late copy editor that night. Calls were made, stopping the presses was a costly move and rarely done. But I persisted, saying the story had to be updated. I remember the printers’ boss nodding to me, smiling and saying, “Let her stop the presses.” I was trying to be authoritative but couldn’t. I looked at the eyeshade wearing men poised over the layouts, started laughing, and said it, “STOP THE PRESSES!”
I had no idea that in three years I would be in Washington, D.C., working for United Press International. No more stopping the presses for me. But that city hall building was the first place I went to cover a story, a news conference with Rosalynn Carter, the first lady, and Mayor Marion Barry, whose election came after he was lauded as a hero in the Hanafi siege. After, I walked to the front of the room, introduced myself, and shook Mrs. Carter’s hand. I told the Georgia native that I had just transferred from Alabama. She said, “I’m so glad to have another southerner up here with us.”
This story was partly an excuse to post a photo, taken in the UPI newsroom in D.C., showing one of my favorite bosses ever, Lucien Carr, a key member of the New York City circle of the Beat Generation in the 1940s. And that’s another yarn for another day.