At one point of time, before the Internet and mobile phones became omnipresent, telegrams were a very important tool of communication for reporters.
Outstation correspondents, particularly, were heavily dependent on the Telegraph Department to send news to their media organisations. They were given Press Cards, with a number, by the department. They used to hand over typed or handwritten manuscripts bearing the number for sending across to their media offices.
Two paise a word
Senior mediaperson Arun, who started using the telegram service when Morse code was in vogue, recalls: “News organisations were being charged two paise a word for ordinary news and four paise a word for express news.
“There were times when news we sent landed in other media offices,” says Mr. Arun, who worked as a staffer in Shimoga for a long time. “The mistake was not deliberate, it was the problem of rerouting copies.
“Newspaper reporters had strong bonds with the department staff, as they spent long hours in telegraph offices. With the emergence of facsimile (Fax), they started transmitting copies through telephone lines,” he adds.
Veteran journalist Krishna Vattam recalls, “Once, I sent 35 pages of news through Morse code. Politicians and dignitaries used to come to telegraph office to meet reporters, as they used to spend a lot of time there.”
Mr. Vattam, in fact, wants to send a telegram on Sunday, before the service is closed.
A senior official in the department, sharing a “secret” with this reporter, said: “Some media organisations are yet to clear their dues. Our head office recently asked us to collect the dues.”