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.

comments

  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.
    XOR

  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.