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Scott Loftis

From the Editor

Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com

Opinion

The wonders of technology

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Having spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business, I sometimes marvel at the way technology has changed the way we work.

When I got my start, there were no digital cameras. Photographers actually used film and then developed it in a dark room.

Page layout wasn’t done on a computer. Instead, editors sketched out what they wanted a page to look like on a blue grid, which we referred to as a “dummy.” Stories and photos were printed out on a kind of thick paper, then the back of that paper was run through a waxer before the employees in the “back shop” cut and pasted it onto the page, using the dummy as a guide.

When someone wanted to send information into the paper, they typed it on a typewriter or wrote it by hand and then either mailed it or dropped it off at the newspaper office.

I remember marveling at the first fax machines, and how much easier they made it to transmit information quickly. Of course, that information still had to be retyped in order to publish it in the paper. And fax machines weren’t perfect, especially if the sender didn’t pay attention to a few common-sense rules. I remember when I was sports editor of the daily paper in Pine Bluff. There were two golf courses in that city then. One of them sent results in by fax each week, neatly typed and legible. The other scrawled its results by hand, in cursive, using a pencil, then faxed them to us. You can only imagine how impossible it was to make any sense of those results. We tried to follow up by phone, but got no answer. Then, when we published golf results from one course but not the other, we were accused of discriminating against one course because it didn’t have any black members. Fun times.

Nowadays, of course, we don’t receive much information by fax (although we do still receive police reports and jail intake logs that way). Email is more convenient but it lends itself to other problems. The biggest one, of course, is “spam.” I receive hundreds of emails every week, and I would estimate that 90 percent of them are of absolutely no value other than an occasional chuckle.

I recently received an email from a Mrs. Lila Lucas. Mrs. Lucas says that she is from Norway and is the widow of Mr. Lucas Patrick, a gold merchant who owned a small gold mine in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Mr. Patrick, it seems, left $11 million in a bank in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. Poor Mrs. Lucas is in failing health herself, and she needs someone to serve as an executor for all those millions, which she hopes will be used to help motherless babies, widows and other less fortunate folks. All I need to do, she says, is respond to her email and she’ll give me more information on how the money will be transferred to my bank account.

Of course, Mrs. Lucas will probably need my banking information in order to facilitate the transfer. I hope she isn’t waiting by the laptop for my “urgent answer.”

That’s a humorous example of the kind of junk that clogs my inbox. Some others include a listing of the top 174 U.S. cities for new moms, results from a survey of Arkansans about their alcohol use during the pandemic, a ranking of all 50 states’ urbanization rates, a list of the best-paying states for retail workers, a ranking of the most popular jelly bean flavors, an announcement about a pair of “heavy hitters” joining a capital investment group in Berkeley, Calif., and two “letters to Biden” from someone named U Khachatryan. I’m pretty sure Biden doesn’t read my email, so it’s probably not the best way to get him a message. Or does he?

As you can probably guess, I don’t give a hoot about any of that. If it doesn’t have to do with Carroll County, odds are I’m probably not even going to open it.

The one thing that isn’t funny about all this spam is that it clutters up my inbox and occasionally I miss an important email from someone right here in Carroll County. I do my best not to let that happen, but it’s a never-ending battle.

With all that said, if you’ve sent me something and you haven’t seen it in the paper, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 870-423-6636. Or, heck, just send me a fax!