What newsroom sounds will vanish next?

(Photo by Kristen Hare)

The Museum of Endangered Sounds started out as a fun side project in 2012, Aaron Leitko reported in The Washington Post that year. The last post on the Museum’s Facebook page came in December of 2012, and there aren’t any recent tweets either, but sounds still live on the museum’s site. And some of them might sound familiar to journalists who’ve been working for awhile.

There are sounds from a teletype, a typewriter, a dot matrix printer, a dial-up modem and a floppy disk drive, among others.

Some of those sounds predated many journalists in newsrooms now, and it made me wonder what sounds could be added in the future? The buzz of a phone on vibrate? Soft clicks of keyboards? Twitter notifications?

I mostly work from home, so the sounds I usually have around me are residential, like the roar of a lawnmower and kids laughing and shouting as they walk home from school. Today my sounds include a 3-year-old, (home “sick” after a slight fever yesterday and a 24-hour daycare ban.) So here’s what my newsroom sounds right now.

What are the sounds in your newsroom, or wherever you do your work? Send me links if you make a recording and I’ll try and include them. (Hat tip to Steffen Konrath for tweeting a link to the Museum’s site.) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to blow bubbles and munch on fruit snacks.

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  • JeromeWeeks

    At the Dallas Morning News, when I started there in the mid-’80s, they had a computer system that, even then, was fairly antiquated because the newspaper had been relatively quick to jump on that technology — years and years before. It relied on a series of light signals embedded in the ceiling that would light up, indicating which of several central computers was running, meaning the desktops that belonged to A, B, C or D system were functioning. But if a system crashed, the particular alphabetical light would flash and a tremendously loud warning buzzer would sound, prompting reporters to shout things like “Dive! Dive!” or “The dilithium crystals, cap’n! They canna’ take it!”

    Some 12 years earlier, I worked nights at the Detroit Free Press as a research librarian (translation: clerk), and the newsroom was fitted out with an entire wall of wire report machines, which, collectively, were so deafening, you often had to shout to be heard during normal conversation. So they built a long plywood and plexiglas cabinet over all of them. It was hinged, so the ‘lid’ could be lifted over an individual machine, allowing copy boys to tear off the wire copy. Even with the crude sound proofing, the newsroom always — always — chugged and chinged and hammered, partly because the weather service wire seemed to work 24/7. The only time I witnessed all the machines shut down completely came a few moments before Richard Nixon announced his resignation on TV in 1973. It was startling: Utter silence reigned in a room that was never quiet. When his speech was over, all the machines kicked back in with a mechanical roar.

  • John McClelland

    Scores of comments are on the social sites and only one here at the original’s comment site, so far. So will keyboarding and insipid “Did you get my email?” vanish from office noise, as everyone under 65 goes to hand-held devices? Some of my early newsrooms, pre-computer and thus pre-airconditioning, had a vibrant hum of fans, the occasional slap of a fly swatter, and frequent whooshes of pneumatic tubes carrying cylinders of copy to composing. One, after new AC began dumping a stream of frigid air on the copy desk, had chattering teeth all day — in July. How about the clink of a spoon stirring sugar into vile coffee sludgified in an all-day “honor system” pot?

  • Dale Alison

    Miss the advisory bells. The last ones we had notified us of the 1986 Challenger launch, then of course what happened next.

    That makes me practically prehistoric. Then of course, we started out using typewriters in college. That came with the warning to drink beer from 12 oz. cans — the carriage return would knock over the 16-oz. ones.