For only third time in 43 years, New York Times 'stopped the presses' to cover killing of Osama

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From The N.Y. Times’ internal, “Ahead of The Times”: “‘Stop the presses.’ When Dave Geary of the News Desk made that request on Sunday night because the death of Osama bin Laden, he became only the third person in the last 43 years who is confirmed to have stopped the presses. Al Siegal, who came to the paper in 1960 before retiring in 2006, reports on the only instance he can recall: ‘On the night of Sunday, March 31, 1968, the first edition had begun to roll with the prepared text of Lyndon Johnson’s speech about the Tet offensive and the Vietnam War. When he went on the air, we followed along in the text. At the end of the speech, he announced that he was withdrawing as a candidate for president. Larry Hauck phoned the pressroom and used exactly those words.’

“Fast forward to Election Night 2000, or more specifically, Non-Election Morning 2000, about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8. Yet another postscript of the third edition had been sent with a headline reporting George Bush had defeated Al Gore. That was quickly dashed by additional reporting, and John Geddes picked up the phone to avoid yet another ‘Dewey Beats Truman’ moment. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says there was at least a fourth. He recalls that when he was serving as the night production manager, he was asked by someone on the News Desk to stop the presses because a major Soviet figure had died. He said he did, but he cannot remember the specifics. So that one remains something of an urban legend, but with a large executive asterisk.

“Joe Sexton, current Sports editor and former Metro editor, thought we stopped the presses last May to get the story of either the attempted Times Square bombing on Saturday night or the arrest of the bomber on Monday night into late editions. But the edition totals and page closings do not bear him out. There have been many times when the Production Department has accommodated News on requests to run the presses a bit slower to maximize the number of late papers that included a late breaking story. But saying ‘slow the presses’ does not have near the same cachet. Other news events might have triggered the request, including the death of popes, the murder of John Lennon and some embarrassing prose that might have slipped through. But memories fade quickly and confirmation is impossible. So for the moment, Dave, John and Larry comprise a very select club. Any memories, faded or not, are welcome.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.