'Those were the days': ENR, Dodge, before everything changed

'Those were the days': ENR, Dodge, before everything changed


In 1988, I had only been at Engineering News-Record in midtown Manhattan for about a year when Arthur J. Fox Jr. retired as editor-in-chief. He had first joined ENR as an assistant editor in 1948 at age 25. A civil engineer, Art had won a Bronze Star while serving as a construction foreman in Europe during World War II.


Now living in Potomac, MD, he exchanged e-mails with me last month after I had contacted him about the sale of McGraw-Hill Construction. As a side note, since I work at a tech startup now, I asked Art what he remembered about the technology at ENR when he started there 66 years ago. Here's what he had to share:


Stories were written on typewriters, or scribbled, or spoken into Dictaphones, and sent to a Transcribing Dept. They would come back typed and clean for copy editing. A teletypist (whom we shared with Business Week) sent edited copy to the printer in Albany, NY. Galleys came back by truck overnight to be trimmed with scissors, edited to fit, and pasted onto dummy sheets of pages. Off they went by truck to the printer who sent back page proofs for final editing. Scissors and rubber cement were the essentials of editing in those days.

Wow. Think about that. All those steps BEFORE that week's issue was even published!

Four decades later, when I was an assistant editor, the process at ENR was better, but still far from what it is today. We had a very simple network of computers that offered no images and no color, except for green typeface on a black screen.

Lexis/Nexis was one of our newer tech research tools then, but its cost was, well, prohibitive. I found that out the hard way in 1989 when curiosity got the best of me while working over a weekend. Alone in the office, on the 41st floor of the McGraw-Hill building, across the street from Radio City Music Hall, I gradually became distracted and began researching one topic after another, straying further and further from the work I was there to do. I was in awe of all the information at my fingertips.

Three weeks later, the managing editor (not Art) called me into his office and asked, "Can you explain to me why I have a Lexis/Nexis bill here for $1,100???"  

Needless to say, I was shocked... and pretty embarrassed.

On the road then, we didn't have laptops or cell phones. So we took notes and wrote drafts on reporters' notepads and other loose scraps of paper. And if we were on deadline with breaking news, like a bridge collapse or an earthquake, then we would have to call into the office from a pay phone, reverse the charges, and dictate the story over the phone.

Back in New York, I remember almost daily staffers stuffing envelopes with slips of white paper the size of index cards. Each one had a paragraph or two describing an upcoming project, its owner, developer, bid date, etc. They were the individual Dodge Reports, as I trust many of you may remember. Today, of course, after many stops and starts --one of which even involved Ross Perot's tech company in the 1990s-- those Dodge Reports are now all online.

For the author's take on the recent sale of McGraw-Hill Construction, go to: http://www.burnhamworks.com/blog/2014/10/14/23d6shk4mu8atpk4jcwz88gvt502si



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