We are often told, if we are in the habit of getting our news from the television set, that the news they are presently reporting will be updated in the next half-hour or so.
Years ago in L.A., I used to see this phenomenon in the newspapers sold downtown. Many a commuter bought the same paper that was delivered to his house every day because he could see a special edition being sold with large headlines of very recent news. There would be a half-dozen editions a day, which meant the presses were always rolling and the front pages always changing.
There were certain crowded streets with stop signals. These were the main ways to get out of town when work was over. This sort of intersection had the busiest paperboys (some were more than boys) in town.
They would wear that kind of newspaper vest that had a pocket across the front, and another in the back (like that of a duck-hunter) and was quite a load, and they would be on the white line between the two south-bound lanes, and just as the signal would stop the traffic, the paperboy would go down between the vehicles displaying the front page in front of him.
Drivers who were expecting him would hold out the money, and he would in one movement snap the paper closed with thumb and forefinger, leaving the palm and remaining fingers to take the money. As fast as he could he would go down the line, taking out a new paper, folding, taking change and displaying the headlines until the signal changed.
Then the newsboy would have to back up – or turn around – until he got back to the crosswalk, to be ready for the stream of cars to stop for the red light again.
Somehow he seemed to make change as well, but he didn’t seem to put his hand in his pocket. He couldn’t afford any wasted motion. He probably had a pocket like a carpenter’s nail apron. For however long the rush continued he would walk down the line when the cars were stopped and would retreat back to the intersection when the cars started to move.
Out in the suburbs the paperboys were busy as well, walking their allotted area, folding their papers as they walked, into a small tight package that could be sailed from the sidewalk up to the porch without unfolding – a primitive Frisbee.
All over, the late breaking world-wide news arrived by foot, and regularly, if it was humanly possible. And printed in black ink too, which gave the paper a crisper look, even though people complained about the ink coming off in their hands.
In some English novels you might read of some ladies who would wear cotton gloves to read the morning papers. But of course, in those novels, the maid would iron the paper before she saw it, no one wanted to read wrinkled news.