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Web break!

November 20, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Those were the dreaded words that might echo up through the labyrinth that made up the many floors of the old Enterprise building at 76 Main St. and always on a dark and stormy afternoon in January and it was always 3 or later in the afternoon and there were always 26 newsboys crowded in the small room in the circulation department, raising hell, waiting for the newspapers so they could start their routesand the drivers would be waiting for the newspapers to be delivered to Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and the "tube" routes that ran helter-skelter out into the rural areas.

The "web" was the newsprint that ran off 400 pound spools into the old rotary press in the bowels of the Enterprise; when the room would get too dry and the newsprint too brittle that paper would snap like a firecracker after the press started maybe after a few papers were printed or maybe after a thousand and then someone had to decide who would get the first pick of those papers (usually the tube route driver) as the pressman, with a helper would begin the intricate job of rewinding the newsprint into the press.

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Article Photos

Howard Riley puts corrected type in a chase for Page 1. From there, it was rolled as a mat and then cast as a plate.
(Enterprise file photo)

Hot type

Here is the story of getting out the newspaper in the days of hot type everything was cast in lead every line of type in every column were letters cast on top of a lead "slug" that came out of a Linotype machine those lines, hundreds to a story, depending on the length of the story, were locked into a steel chase (mounted on a heavy steel table) with all the other stories that would make up the page and that page would eventually be cast into a curved lead "plate" (that weighed about 30 pounds) that would be locked into that big press along with the other 7 or 11 pages that would become that day's Enterprise.

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The linotype

The newsroom opens at 8 a.m. A reporter writes his story on a typewriter about the village board meeting the night before (with the margins set correctly, 250 words to a page) and sends it down to the composing room. Sending, mind you, by opening a little door cut into the wall near the editor's desk where there is a basket mounted on a pulley; placing that story carefully into the basket, pulling down the cable sending the basket down the track to the composing room and then banging on a pipe to let the people know in the noisy composing room that the story was in the basket. Sounds complicated but it took only a few seconds.

A linotype operator would have to retype the story on a 99-key keyboard (the caps were a separate keyboard). When the operator pressed a key a brass matrix, say an "e," would be released from a "magazine" built at an angle above the keyboard. That "e" along with the others letters to make up the word would fall onto a pulley belt that would drop the letter upright into the space in front of the operator. When that line was full (12 ems wide), the operator pressed a big handle on the right of the keyboard that sent the line onto a higher transfer track and then into a locked mold that cast that line into lead. A big arm would then come down, pick all the matrix and lift them to the top of the magazine; then a round steel worm would drop each letter back into their correct channel accomplished by notches cut into the top of each matrix. That keyboard had a delicate touch; an instance too long on touching the key and there would be three "e's," not one or if the mold did not lock tightly, the operator might get a "squirt" which would send a speck of hot lead onto the left arm.

That is one line in the story completed.

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Getting a proof

The operator slides the completed story of lines ("slugs") into a steel galley that is placed on a proof press inked by a small hand roller; a long piece of proof paper (all cut by hand from scrap newsprint) is placed onto the inked galley, a roller operated by an electric foot peddle makes the proof which is then wrapped around the original copy and sent up to the newsroom in the basket for proof reading. The corrections come back, the proof is hung on a hook for the operator who set the type, he or she makes the corrections, places them on a counter and a printer places then in the proper galley for the corrections to be made before the type (story) goes into the chase.

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A full page

Let's look at Page !; the last page to be made up. The editor then comes down to the composing room with a layout (the only page to have a layout) to oversee things with the printer as he puts the page together. When the headlines and stories are all locked in, the printer scans the page to be sure the corrections are all made and proper headlines are over the proper stories; remember, we are reading this page upside down and backwards, which eventually, we could read just as fast as anyone reading that page in the newspaper.

This page was rolled over to a steel mat press, then slid onto the press where the page was covered with a thick, soft fiber mat and put through the press. That page was sent down a shaft, just the right size and built for that purpose, to the press room where the page was cast into the lead plate that would go onto the press. When all eight or 12 pages (we could not print 10 pages) were cast with no problems we could "tear down" the pages to get ready for the next day.

That was the way we got out the Enterprise for the 23 years that I worked there, leaving shortly after the paper went offset. Just multiple the above tasks a thousands times for the New York Times because it took the same process to publish the Times as it did the Enterprise.

 
 

 

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