January 24, 2012

Stop the Presses

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.


  1. Sheila Ryan on January 24th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I kind of wish the printers’ boss had said, “Let the little lady stop the presses.”

  2. Sheila Ryan on January 24th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Carole, I love the photo of you with Lucien Carr. That is just the best.

  3. Carole Corlew on January 24th, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    I was thrilled to find the photo. Wish I had more. And after I moved to D.C. I was urgently arguing some point about a story that was flying all over the world when another southerner walked up and said, “Woman, I thought I told you to stay in the truck.” I still laugh to think of it.

  4. Rick Neece on January 24th, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Great story, Cece! I chuckled out loud first time today. You do us proud.

  5. Carole Corlew on January 24th, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I saw the dueling banjos tweet and started rambling, Rick. I also had been thinking about a Radio Lab show about coincidences, or fate, or something. It touched on “rhyming events.”

    When I was in college, Helen Thomas spoke and I was seated next to her at a Press Club lunch later. Only a few students were invited for the lunch and I couldn’t figure out how I got there. I was starstruck and could barely talk. She was kind and encouraged me to eat, keep up my strength, etc.

    Fifteen or so years later, I sat with her at an outdoor table in Venice, the night before some big confab. I was exhausted and starting to rev up at the same time, getting crazy, like a child. The food was fabulous, but I could barely touch it. Helen kept encouraging me to eat… keep up my strength for the long days ahead.

    That definitely was one of Paul Aster’s rhyming events.