One day not that far away, I suspect, hot-metal memoirs will grow cold on the slab. Thus the triumph of technology over the nostalgia of those days when journalistic skills included not only being up to shorthand speed but being able to read upside down and back to front. The latter skill was necessary for any production journalist who spent long and awkward hours in the composing room, standing across a metal forme from a nimble compositor who arranged the layout of various columns of lead type and photogravure blocks into an immovable mass to be cast into a newspaper page. Trying even to explain a composing room – or, to give its affectionate nickname, ‘the stone’ – to anyone born at the start of this century (perhaps before), is a thankless and indeed useless task. There is an entire archaic lexicon of once-familiar newspaper production terms: define ‘flong’, ‘galley’, ‘WOB’, ‘chase’, ‘slug’, ‘widow and orphan’, and ‘banging-out’ (answers below).
One person who is no doubt still familiar with all of the above words is Les Hinton, whose long and labyrinthine path through daily journalism has taken him, figuratively speaking, from the stygian underworld of black ink to the rarefied heights of boardroom politics, becoming a trusted counsel of Rupert , and running various blocks of his media empire in the United States and Britain.