There were plenty of days when they never stopped.
And there were plenty of days when I wished they would.
Ringing phones were part of the beautiful background noise of a good newsroom.
One of the many Wiltshire’s Laws I developed over time was that the closer you were to a print deadline, the more the phones would ring.
“Can someone get that, please,” was one of my politer responses.
Today, newsrooms seem quieter places.
I’ve been in one this week, and the phone rings now and again.
And in many ways, that’s fine. People get in touch by email, on Facebook, via Twitter or on WhatsApp groups.
And occasionally, as someone with possibly unfounded fears about a dangerous tree in a posh supermarket car park did only yesterday, they drop into the reception areas that are still open.
But we do need to talk about phones.
I love a bit of phone banter. There’s a particular joy to be had in oiling the wheels of nailing a story, or persuading someone to open up, through charming and/or cajoling down the line.
Listening to some reporters negotiate their way to success can be like observing a master craftsman or woman at work. It can be sheer poetry.
And yet, the generation that I spend most of my time with can find it hard.
It can take a couple of years for the penny to really drop that using the phone can be the best way to the heart of a story – or to crack that work placement, or that final year project feature interview.
Until it does, there can be a mini-world of pain, paranoia and procrastination.
This is far from breaking news. The concern among editors and other employers emerges on a regular basis, and I’ve been talking to managers in the industry about this for several years.
I’m looking forward to a session organised by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council in May which will look at how we can encourage students to get out from behind a keyboard.
I’ve been working with a theatre company made up of performing arts graduates from our university for the last three years, devising role play exercises and confidence tips.
In a few weeks’ time, I’ll be getting all our first years to take part in an extra session where they have to use the phone, and next year we’ll be launching a new first-year module hammering home such basic skills.
The hope is that we can crack phobias about phones within a few months of students walking through the door.
It’s crucial that we free the journalists and other media professionals of the future to use every possible means of communication with confidence and charm.
And, occasionally, with a little bit of cunning.
I was delighted to hear one of our students tell me about her tactic for getting through to a woman whose story she wanted to cover.
After emails, phone calls and a visit came to nothing, she sent her a letter by recorded delivery – meaning the woman had to sign for it, and the student got a receipt.
She’s now doing that story.