Turning inner space into outer space

March 7, 2011

Why we no longer have a press

I’m the one who first broke the news about The Daily News pressroom and mail room shutting down. What I mean is that I copied and pasted the publisher’s statement into a web interface and clicked on a couple of buttons that published it onto The Daily News website. It took all of five or 10 minutes.

Anyone wanting to read it in The Daily News newspaper had to wait several hours. They had to wait for the article to go to a team of associate news editors, who laid it out using a computer program called InDesign. Then it had to go to another department called pre-press, where other people used other computers to turn the page into a PDF, then turn it into a “plate” — a sheet of metal with the page etched onto it. This plate and others that made up the pages of the newspaper were created with large, noisy machines.

Then the plates were placed on the press. Pressmen had to run the press for about an hour to create stacks of newspapers from massive rolls of paper and giant vats of ink. The newspapers were placed on trolleys and handed over to the mail room, where more staffers used other machines to collate the sections, insert flyers and bundle them together for the drivers. Trucks delivered the newspapers to various parts of the city, where they could be divided up between the people who finally delivered them to subscribers’ doorsteps.

A lot of people, a lot of equipment, a lot of time, a lot of expense.

It happened again — for the last time — on Friday night. I recorded the process with a cheap camcorder, stitched together a few scenes and uploaded the resulting video to The Daily News website. Those hours were the saddest in my 30 years of journalism. It was all the more poignant knowing that the video was published before the newspapers were even out the door.