Long before the e-mail and fax machines were invented, journalists used the telegram to send their reports from every nook and cranny of the country to their headquarters.
In fact, telegram offices in all major cities had a press room. And one of the fastest telegram operators was assigned to send press telegrams.
“There was a time when dozens of media persons, including foreign correspondents came here to send telegrams. In fact, we had special outdoor messengers for the media. While all other outdoor messengers were entitled to cycles, our press messengers called DR (dispatch riders) were entitled to motorcycles. The idea was to make sure the news reports reaches the newspaper office on time,” says RD Ram, a chief telegram master at Central Telegram Office.
Newspaper organisations used to pay the post and telegraph department on a monthly basis. So, each time a correspondent had to send out a report, all he had to do was to show his Press Telegram Card.
The cost of sending an ordinary press telegram was about 2 paisa per word and that of an express telegram was about 4 paisa per word.
Most journalists used ordinary telegram because it was delivered to their office in 3-4 hours.
“Our press telegraphists typed fast and accurately. Most copies ranged from 300 to 800 words. There were hardly any spelling mistakes. They were happy that they could read tomorrow’s headlines in advance,” said RK Goyal, 58, a telegraphist at Central Telegraph Office.
“We often had tea together in the canteen and reporters would expect me to give them clues for stories as many of the incoming and outgoing telegrams contained stuff that made for interesting stories. We often obliged,” says a telegraphist at the Central Telegram Office.