The rumbling press at The Daily World went quiet today.
The newspaper will continue to exist, but starting Wednesday, it will be printed on a more modern press at The Chronicle in Centralia.
The 40-year-old Goss Urbanite press is a mass of moving parts, dials, rollers and levers that fills one large and long room at The Daily World. “You walk into a press room and you can smell the combination of ink and solvent that we use to wash tools and the machine,” Pressroom Manager Dave Marlow said. “It’s one of those things over the course of 22 years, it’s hard to describe, but I know it’s going to be one of those things I’m going to miss. It’s the smell of production. The smell of maintenance. Just knowing you’re diving in there and getting something done. It’s hard to explain.”
Marlow and his three-man press crew will be laid off. Three employees from the distribution operation where the papers are bundled and advertising fliers are inserted will also lose their jobs. All have been offered severance packages to assist them in relocating to new jobs.
“Luckily, I will go back to school and learn a new trade,” Marlow said. “The timing is right to make that change.”
The sounds of the press can be heard all over The Daily World building. Marlow explains it for the uninitiated: “The speed gradually climbs and you can hear the change in the tone in the press as it gets up to speed. You can hear the clamp of the blanket gaps that come in contact with the web. It’s one of those sounds you can hear on every unit that comes up, a bit of a clapping sound. The building starts to shake. You can feel the extra bit of energy it takes as it starts to roll faster and faster.”
As the press operators work diligently to make sure all of the pictures and ads are in registration, the press glides up to full-speed in five to 10 minutes. At full speed, the press can do 28,000 to 30,000 impressions an hour. It takes about an hour to print the paper.
Press operator John Volkert, who has worked on the press for 13 years, used to lead Cub Scout Pack 593, Den 9. He and his Scouts built cabinetry and installed it in the press room.
“Most of them are in Boy Scouts by now,” Volkert said. “There’re a lot of memories here.”
On Saturday, Volkert grabbed a wrench and with fellow press operator Steven Steuermann, began to do some work on the press in preparation for a printing of the Nugguam, a paper produced by the Quinault Indian Nation.
“It’s all about priorities,” he says as he works. “I’m going to do the best job I can in the short time I have left.”
Steuermann worked in the distribution department of The Daily World for three years before becoming a press operator in 2009. He criss-crosses the top of the giant machine almost as if he were on monkey bars.
Even when he sleeps, he says, he thinks about the press.
“A couple times, it’s strange to admit, I’ve had nightmares of the press jamming up and the stop button not working,” he said. “So, in my dream, I’m dreaming of hitting the stop button and it just won’t work.”
Press operator Mike Hamilton, who has worked the bulk of his 20-year career at The Daily World in the press room, says he can still hear the “the low rolling sounds of the press” — even when it’s not running.
“It took me 15 years to get the walls painted because they used to be yellow and I’d see yellow everywhere,” Hamilton said.
The press guys said they endured the challenges of the press because they knew there were families out there waiting to cut out articles or a picture. It’s called “refrigerator journalism.”
“You’ve got a mom, a dad, a grandma, a grandpa and you know this is going to be on the refrigerator for a long time so let’s do the best we can with it,” Marlow said. “We’re the final piece to the puzzle and if we’re not doing our job, everyone else’s job is for nothing.”
The Daily World staff has gone to great lengths to ensure the paper continued printing. Following the 2007 storm, for instance, press staff navigated logging roads to get to The Olympian to have the paper printed and then helped ensure the paper was delivered even as the community continued to live without power. The paper was printed there for two days.
“The hardest part of this move is losing our press and insert crews,” said Daily World Publisher Bill Crawford. “These folks work very hard to make the most out of what we have in terms of machinery. I will greatly miss seeing them in the morning as I make my rounds.
“I am a guy who bleeds ink and it will be a very strange thing for me to work in a building that doesn’t hum as the press starts to roll,” Crawford said. “The hard reality is our press is coming to the end of its life, and going into the future that is something we have to address now.
“The Daily World press, being over 40 years old, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when you will face a major mechanical failure,” Crawford said. “The economy, in its current state of affairs, would not warrant a replacement or major overhaul. The move to the Chronicle will ensure the success of The Daily World and our affiliates to continue on for years to come in the communities in which they serve,” he said.
“Losing people, good people, is never an easy decision,” Crawford said. “To the folks in the back, you finished today as you finish every day, with pride, and that reflects in our final papers printed in-house and I really admire you for that.”
Former Editor & Publisher John Hughes notes that the county’s first newspaper, the Chehalis Valley Vidette, made its debut at Montesano in 1883 on a portable U.S. Army surplus press its young owners acquired in Portland for $400.
“The Daily World traces its lineage to Walsh and H.K. Finch’s weekly Aberdeen Bulletin, which published its first issue in 1889,” Hughes said. “Changing hands often, it went daily in 1900 and struggled along as a four-page publication until 1908. That was the year when Sam Benn, Aberdeen’s founding father, his go-getter son Ed, a Realtor, and leading Aberdeen merchants — notably George J. Wolff and J.J. Kaufman — recruited two Tacoma newsmen to give Aberdeen ‘a real newspaper.’ Werner Andrew Rupp, a 28-year-old political reporter and editorial writer, and John F. Gilbert, 25, an ad designer and cartoonist, bought the Bulletin for $18,000 and renamed it The Aberdeen World,” Hughes says. “Within six months the paper was being printed along ‘big city lines’ on a new Cox flatbed Duplex press. ‘Costing close to $10,000,’ it could produce 6,500 eight-page papers an hour. The World soon became the dominant paper in the region.”
“Stop the presses” has been a call press operators have heard over the years. And, for the record, there’s not just one red button, but several of them, points out Hamilton.
Hughes would say the movie-inspired phrase routinely — mainly to fix mistakes. Although, he recalls one time the press needed to be stopped to put in a hot news story. “For the record,” Hughes says, “precious few real reporters were ever so lathered up over a hot story that they actually told a press foreman, ‘Stop the presses!’ like you see in old movies. Only the editor, publisher or production manager could make that call. If you thought your story was really that good you had to plead your case with your boss. As a reporter, I had mixed results convincing my superiors my supposed scoops were really that good. In the summer of 1968, Irv Seath, our news editor, who actually wore a green eyeshade, was hovering over the Associated Press teletype for news on Nixon’s choice for running mate. Suddenly, the bells clanged and a bulletin clacked off. ‘Holy crap!’ Seath shouted, ripping the paper from the machine, ‘It’s someone named Spiro Agnew!’ Downstairs, Press Foreman Johnny Jackson’s wonderful, inky apparatus soon groaned to a halt, awaiting the front-page make-over to give the Harbor the latest news. At the time, and today, I still think ‘Holy crap!’ is better than ‘Stop the presses!’”