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Newspapering has changed a lot over the years - Tri-County Times: Tri-County Times Newspaper: Fenton, Linden And Holly MI News Source

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Newspapering has changed a lot over the years

‘Cut and paste’ used to mean an entirely different thing

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Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 10:58 am

Back in the day, before there were smart phones, digital cameras and 24/7 wireless connectivity, the newsroom, advertising department and composition department were very different places.

 The newsroom would be filled with reporters waiting for phone calls returned, because that was the only way you could communicate with your news source, other than in person. Deadlines meant late hours spent writing your stories after evening meetings.

 There were no mobile phones to connect you, or the internet to provide you with an instant source of information. Back then, you’d have to go to the library, the “morgue” of newspaper archives or talk directly to someone who knew more than you did about a particular subject.

 Photos were another source of extra time, money and work. Back then, pictures were taken, then film had to either be developed in a darkroom, where there was an ever-present danger of spoiling film with the wrong chemicals or someone walking through the door destroying the film with just a sliver of light, etc.

 Film could also be developed at Kmart or another local film processor. “We’d spend hundreds of dollars to get film developed, and then just use a few of the finished photos,” said Jennifer Ward, who has been composition manager for 20 years.

 You’d also have to be very good at math, figuring out the correct percentage to make a photo bigger or smaller to fit the space, by using a proportion wheel.

 In the advertising department, cubicles were usually empty as salespeople spent most of their day meeting with business owners in person, then returning to their desk at the end of the day to design the ad on paper, and sending it to Comp for production.

 “We physically had to take copies of the finished ad (called a proof) to all our customers,” said Gail Grove, who has been advertising director since 1979.

 “I used to use so much gas. I’d deliver about 100 ads to my customers every week. We didn’t have fax machines or even copy machines. The electronic world has certainly changed all that.”

 Back in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, before newspapers went digital, “cut and paste” actually meant “cut and paste.”

 Assembling a newspaper wasn’t a click or two on your computer, but a time-consuming, messy job of cutting galleys of long columns of type spit out of a huge typesetting terminal, then waxing them in a wax machine that would place a sticky residue on the back side of each galley.

 Ads were also assembled with “clip art” from a national art service, bordered using a tape-like roll with many different styles of borders available. “My jewelry always had wax in it,” said Grove.

 Using an exacto knife for cutting and a pica pole for measuring, a composition employee would then cut and paste the stories to fit around the advertisements which anchored pages set up on light tables.

 Ward remembers having a night shift to do all this work, often staying as late as midnight to “put the paper to bed” (an old newspaper saying). “We used to work a lot more than we do now, although I still stay late before finishing the paper on Friday,” said Ward.

 She and Grove recall driving the pages to get the paper printed, hoping that the waxed pieces would stay where they belonged and not end up in the wrong place covering a space in another story or on top of an ad.

 While the community mission of a newspaper to be a “watchdog” and town crier of events and happenings hasn’t changed, the processes to make it happen certainly have.

 Most people who have worked at the Times for 20 years or more remember the old days fondly, but are grateful that today’s newspapering work isn’t as difficult and time consuming as it used to be.

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