I have worked with community newspapers for a long time now, first starting as a reporter in 1976 in Malta, Mont. for the Phillips County News. Back in those days, at that newspaper, reporters typed everything on manual typewriters and a typesetter would enter the material into a compugraphic unit, an early version of a computer.
I seldom think about the differences between newspapers back then and those we publish today, but this past Wednesday night I had to drive the truck to Richfield to get the Sun Advocate printed. The drive, preparation of the plates and negatives and the printing process reminded me of those early days in Montana. Everything on the mechanical end of the newspaper has constantly changed, as new equipment and new computers are developed, new and more efficient processes are introduced. No more rollers to keep the lines of news columns flat, no more wax machines, razorblades and gone are the days of border tape. But despite these drastic updates and changes in creating community newspapers, they have changed little in 30 years. The drive to Richfield reminded me of how somethings never really change.
For example we still have reporters covering county and city meetings and football and basketball games just as we always have. We now use digital cameras and most newspapers don't even have a dark room anymore.
Our advertising consultants (or salespeople as we use to call them) still call on businesses up and down main street, and work with many agencies just as we always have done, the only difference is that today many of the agencies or larger companies email the copy or material to the newspaper.
Wednesday night was a stark and tiring reminder of driving to a printing press a couple hours away and getting the newspaper printed. As I walked into that pressroom in Richfield at 5 a.m. the smell of the newsprint and ink was the same as I remember back at the pressroom in Glasgow, Mont., where I use to have my newspaper printed. They took the negatives and made aluminum plates and attached the plates to the press the same way as they have done for over 40 years. And once the press started I remember the pressmen running up and down the units adjusting the ink, water and pressure of the large rolls of newsprint. I sat there in awe one more time as the hard work from the day before came rolling off the presses. And a third pressman caught the papers at the end and tied them into bundles and I threw them in the back of the pickup.
Another aspect of the newspaper that hasn't changed much is the delivery system. Once the newspapers get back to Price at the Sun Advocate plant, we stuff the preprints into that day's edition and then quickly get the completed newspaper to the racks, stores, and over 100 carriers throughout Carbon County. In many cases its still the young paperboys and papergirls that go door to door deliverying the news.
Some things never really change and for the most part community newspapers provide the same service and function as they have for a hundred years. It is still the daily or weekly history book of the community it serves. I find it interesting how quickly memories come back and how vivid they are, so many years later.