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Bob Cox

Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

"Stop the Presses!" for a memorable front page

Posted: 08/8/2014 10:54 AM | Comments: 0

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The last time I ever heard an editor say "stop the presses" was on a cold January morning in 1986 in the old Carlton Street offices of the Free Press.

The paper still had an afternoon edition at that time. It was mid-morning and the vibrations in the newsroom floor told us that the presses were already churning out that day's paper.

A few reporters and editors were watching a TV as the space shuttle Challenger launched in Florida -- and then spectacularly blew up in the sky.

We looked on, stunned for a moment. Then an editor at the city desk -- I can't remember who -- said: "I guess we better stop the presses."

It may not have been as dramatic a statement as some from the movies, but it worked. The newsroom quickly threw together a memorable January 28th front page.

A copy of the "Shuttle Explodes" page hangs in our current building on Mountain Avenue, and is now among a select group of front pages that are part of a Newspapers Canada effort to have Canadians choose their favourite front pages from the past 150 years.

At frontpages.ca you can browse over these memorable pages, taken from papers across the country, and vote for your favourites in several categories.

In the "Canada at War" section, you'll find such pages as the front of The Globe, from Oct. 4, 1917, reporting: "Canadians Lead in Triumph," an account of the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadian troops in the First World War.

You'll also find the Free Press front page from "If Day" in 1942, when the city simulated what life might be like if Hitler took over Winnipeg, complete with Nazi-uniformed troops marching in the streets.

Under the "Canadian communities" section, you'll find a Manitoba Free Press front page from 1919 on Bloody Saturday, the riot during the Winnipeg General Strike when one striker was killed.

And under "Canadian Arts, Culture and Entertainment," you'll find the front-page treatment the Free Press gave in 1964 to the Beatles the day they landed briefly at Winnipeg airport. "Winnipeg's wig flips, Girls kiss the tarmac where Beatle plane was," the headline reads.

It's a mix of the serious and fun, the important and the merely entertaining. Check it out, and vote for your favourites.

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