Once upon a time newspapers produced special editions on the fly in order to cover breaking news events. Such measures were necessary back in the day. With no TV and only limited radio coverage, buying papers on street corners at odd times of the day to find out about major news as it unfolded made a lot of sense. Made money too I imagine.
But that was then.
Those special editions were known as “Extras.” The call of the newsboy or hawker calling “Extra, extra … read all about it,” was at one time a cliché that filled movies and even early TV shows. Now it’s a chapter in history that’s seldom talked about.
In fact, our youngest reporter overheard a conversation between two newsroom old-timers (OK, it’s me and Jay Ashley) and asked “what’s an Extra?”
See, not even discussed in journalism schools anymore.
Still, it’s no shock this isn’t a major topic on campuses or anywhere else for that matter. Extras were common decades ago but declined in popularity with the emergence of TV news and later the Internet. They can produce breaking news much more quickly than a newspaper or printing press can. I believe the last Times-News Extra reported the shocking 9/11 terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Before that, it was probably 1993 when a gunman shot someone in a Winn Dixie store in Burlington shopping center before police shot him.
The Extra, though, was an essential part of newspapering’s past. It was probably in its heyday during World War II when huge events were unfolding in Europe or the Pacific at all hours of a given day. A look through the Daily Times-News archives finds dozens of Extras produced in the 1940s.
One of the very best of that lot has to be this one from June 6, 1944, a huge date in the history of World War II. It’s the day allied forces landed at Normandy for what would become D-Day or Operation Overlord. It’s the signature moment of military bravery in the face of horrifying enemy resistance that marked a turn of fortune for the war effort in Europe. More than 5,000 troops died that day.
The Daily Times-News, then an afternoon newspaper, published multiple editions covering the allied invasion of France. The predawn operation occurred (6:30 a.m. Double British Summer Time) when early reports from France could be provided to American newspapers at daybreak here. Newspapers, in turn, cranked out Extras to folks anxious for such riveting war news as it was still happening.
Here’s a front page we found digging through some old boxes. I wanted to publish it here— and on our 125th anniversary website today, the 68th year after Operation Overlord.