CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (AP) — J. Michael “Mike” Rouse, a former Associated Press reporter in North Carolina who helped usher the news cooperative into the early computer age though vote tabulation and story transmission, has died. He was 82.
His son, David Rouse, said Friday that his father died Thursday night at a hospice in Wilmington, having been in failing health for several years.
Rouse started in 1959 as a reporter for the Goldsboro News-Argus but left to join the AP in Charlotte in 1961, according to his retirement announcement published in 2005.
As an AP reporter, Rouse helped cover the civil rights movement. After two years in the Army, he returned to Charlotte and became the AP’s news editor for the Carolinas, directing coverage of the civil rights movement and other stories involving North Carolina and South Carolina.
During his first years as the Carolinas news editor for the AP, Rouse supervised the collection of votes in South Carolina’s fall election with a reporter in each of the 640 precincts. It was the first time such for such an undertaking.
Rouse and his bureau chief, Carl Bell, hired the South Carolina Education Association to have teachers in every precincts to call in the votes from precincts as soon as they were counted. He set up telephone banks in the basement of a municipal auditorium in Columbia and borrowed a computer from Richland Technical Institute.
The project was done on behalf of the then-newly formed News Election Service, a consortium of wire news services and broadcast networks.
The AP chose the Carolinas staff in the late 1960s to test and introduce the computerized transmission of news. Rouse was part of the team that was the first to replace the old teletype machines on which stories were retyped to be transmitted over slow-speed leased telephone lines.
Rouse declined an offer to transfer to Chicago and instead left the AP in 1971 to become managing editor of the Durham Morning Herald. During his 13 years there, the Herald won three public service awards from the North Carolina Press Association.
He would later become general manager and executive editor of the Washington Daily News for five years, then become managing editor of The Fayetteville Observer in 1989. Rouse took on the task of combining the news operations of the Observer, the morning paper and The Fayetteville Times, the afternoon paper, into one morning paper.
Rouse returned to Goldsboro in 1994. As editor of the News-Argus, he managed the news, sports and photo operations and wrote most of the newspaper’s editorials.
A memorial service is being planned.