In Celebration of Deadlines

By Bob McCrillis

Did you know the origin of the term deadline? It arose, among many other horrors, at the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. The Confederate guards established a line about twenty feet inside the stockade walls which no prisoner was allowed to cross. Should a prisoner cross, or even touch, the line, he was shot by the tower guards. According to War Department records, this policy was strictly enforced, leading to the term deadline.

It’s not too difficult to see how the concept could migrate to the newspaper world in the days of manually set type and travel-impaired distribution. With such long lead times between presentation of copy and delivery of a finished newspaper, getting copy in time to print it was very serious business. I was unable to find a verified instance of an editor shooting a delinquent reporter of columnist but I’m sure punishment was severe. Continue reading “In Celebration of Deadlines”

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