By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The scrolling Times Square “zipper” has served like an electronic town crier for generations of New Yorkers, breaking such historic news as the end of World War II, a headline that sent a nurse into a sailor’s arms for a world-famous kiss.
But this week, the news has gone a bit stale. For days, the same headlines have been looping around the landmark electronic billboard that sits on top of 1 Times Square.
“It’s a technical glitch,” said Ashley Huston, spokeswoman for Dow Jones, the News Corp unit that has operated the illuminated display, also known as the “ticker,” since 1995.
On Thursday the zipper was showing days-old headlines such as “U.S. couple convicted in Bali suitcase murder” and “H.P. to sell Snapfish photo storage to District Photo.”
Dow Jones did not answer questions about what caused the problem, how long it has gone on and when it would be fixed.
When the zipper made debut in 1928, it was one of the world’s first real-time news displays.
Today, with state-of-the-art digital displays lighting Times Square and up-to-the-second news on computers and cellphones, it’s a beloved relic of a bygone age when the world moved at a slower pace.
The high-rise building displaying the zipper was once the New York Times’ headquarters, after which Times Square was named. The zipper, located above the ground floor, was the first to send headlines flashing around the tower.
The building is well known for the ball that descends along a pole mounted on its roof every Dec. 31 to mark the beginning of the New Year.
The zipper’s earliest bulletins included Herbert Hoover’s victory over Al Smith in the presidential election on Nov. 6, 1928.
Thousands of people jamming Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, looked up to read “***Official Truman Announces Japanese Surrender***” and burst into cheers. In the crowd a photographer caught a sailor as he spontaneously embraced a young woman in a kiss that has come to symbolize the end of World War Two.
Other news organizations that have leased the zipper included Life magazine and New York Newsday.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)