ASTA memories: The press of duty

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I am currently attending my 27th ASTA congress.

My most vivid ASTA memories are of pressrooms, and, all too often, what was good or bad about a congress had to do with the ease or difficulty of getting stories and photos back to the office before deadline.

This is a random selection of those memories:

  • Rome, 1985. The telex operators quit promptly at 6 p.m., before we were through writing and usually without sending some stories that were ready. So, we dictated hours of words to the office from my room, and for the first time, I had a hotel bill with a total expressed in seven figures.
  • Singapore, 1986. To use the couplers that came with our laptops, we made a hurried, jetlagged shopping trip to buy a phone that replaced the noncompatible one in my room.
  • Hamburg, 1990. Here we found that phone jacks were not standardized. It was another hurried, jet-lagged shopping trip to buy any phone jack converters we could find and then arrange for my hotel to change the phone outlet in my room so the converter would work.
  • Lisbon, 1994. This was a horror show (not the fault of the hosts, please know). We started producing Travel Management Daily on site and so used huge amounts of technology we had not used overseas before. We faxed mountains of copy when our big fancy computers would not do their job. Our "pressroom" was so small it accommodated only the equipment and two people in seated positions. The rest of us sat on couches and chairs in the hall, laptops in our laps (how fitting) to write our stories.
  • Acapulco, 1973. Not every year was there a big story, but there was this time. My sharpest memory is of Alan Fredericks' entering the pressroom to call the office and change Page 1. Pan Am had announced a pay increase to 8% on domestic routes. (Does that make you yearn for the past?)
  • Manila, 1980. The pressroom was large and possibly the nicest we ever had. We did not give it much of a test, though, except to send stories about a bombing during the opening session and to attend a midnight press conference run by some very distressed hosts.
  • Sydney, 1971. I list the first last. That year, I worked for Travel Agent magazine, and we shipped stories home from a telecommunications facility in the center of town. It was evening, so while we waited, I helped myself to someone's desk, phone and typewriter to continue reporting activities in the hours we spent waiting for a lone operator to send all our stories and those of our competitors. That was when I met Alan Fredericks, and I had a job at Travel Weekly before the next congress.
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