How Machines Speed Up the Modern Newspaper (Mar, 1932)

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How Machines Speed Up the Modern Newspaper

News is the world’s most perishable commodity. Presses of the great metropolitan newspapers run an endless race for priority, with increased circulation going to the paper which can split seconds in getting the latest news and pictures to the readers.

1. Here is the first step in speeding an out-of-town news story to the readers of a typical metropolitan newspaper. The photo above shows the ticker room which receives last-minute flashes and complete stories over leased wires. These are automatic typewriter machines which reproduce typographical messages.

2. After the story has been edited and the headlines written a boy takes the “copy” from the head copy editor in the editorial room and inserts it into the carrier which is sent to the composing room via the pneumatic tube shown above.

3. A linotype machine in the composing room. At J deadline time each operator sets not more than 3-1/2 inches on a story. When he finishes a “take” lie puts the slugs on a dump, where an assembler pieces together the complete story, pulls a proof, and then hands it to the proofreaders for correction.

4. Meanwhile photographs are ‘ being rushed through the photo-engraving department, which is connected with the studios and art department by an electric elevator. Escaping seconds are saved by this device, and minutes are clipped from the old schedules by the fan-shaped layout of the department designed to speed up work in process. After copy has been photographed, the exposed plate is passed into the developing room. It is here that plates and cuts are made.

5. After the proofreader has made corrections the make-up man, at the left, takes the corrected galley and makes up his completed page. Lockup can be furnished on late copy within ten minutes from the time the story reaches the composing room via the pneumatic tubes. The man on the right is known as the composing room make-up man.

6. After the complete page of type and cuts has been locked up it is taken to the stereotyping room, where a papier-mache matrix is made of the page. This matrix is baked dry in a few seconds and placed in the autoplate caster. Molten type-metal is then poured into the caster, making a plate of the page.

7. After the plate comes from ‘ the shaver, where it is trimmed smooth, it slides on a conveyor into the press room adjoining. When the edition is printed, the dead plates go back to the foundry for remelting. Here the pressman is slipping a stereotype plate onto a press cylinder. On the cylinder used for the front page is a space known as the “fudge box”. Last minute news may be set up and placed in this space without casting an entire new page.

8 Here is a man regulating the run of the presses. These are three stories high and will print, cut, and fold 360,000 thirty-six-page newspapers per hour. Thirty-six units of Goss straight-line presses with Cline Westinghouse electric controls were installed by a New York newspaper publisher at cost of $800,000.

  1. Hirudinea says: October 25, 20118:27 am

    I can almost smell the ink, and the machine oil, and … Rosalind Russel.

  2. Toronto says: October 25, 20118:38 am

    I’ve seen articles like this hundreds of times, but what I never understand is how they get all the pages printed, put together, and folded. Do they run a million sheet 1 prints, then sheet 2, then sheet 3, etc? Do they have ‘n’ presses? What happens when the front section has 28 pages instead of 24? Or when there’s extra sections (which seems to happen daily these days)?

  3. Jari says: October 25, 201110:07 am

    Toronto: If I remember correctly from my elementary school visit to a local newspaper about 40 years ago….. All the pages of one section of a newspaper are printed together in a one piece of paper (at this stage, it’s still continuous strip), which is then folded several times and cut to the right size. In a case of magazines, pages were printed to already cut paper, which were stacked to a pallet. Second set of pages were printed etc. and finally there were a separate machine, which picked one paper from each stack, stacked, folded and stapled them together and finally cut them to the size.

  4. Toronto says: October 25, 201110:19 am

    Thanks, Jari, but I’m still in the dark. Printing all the pages in order on one continuous strip of paper makes sense to me, but would imply that the type bed itself is as long as “n” sheets of paper (eg 32 pages is 8 sheets, so n=8.) However, the type bed isn’t a belt, it’s a cylinder that appears to be one sheet-face in size (2 pages.)

  5. Jari says: October 25, 201111:22 am

    Toronto: Oh sorry, I forgot. There were several printing stations. The strips were “guided” on top of each other, when they went to the folding machine. I recall that the rolls were bigger. Or I was smaller 🙂

    I just did a little bit of checking, those presses are huge these days… and Web offset from there.

  6. Richard says: October 25, 201111:42 am

    One of my first jobs as a teenagers was at my hometown newspaper, a biweekly with about 9000 circulation. I spent many hours unloading that printing press, labelling and bundling newspapers, putting section 2 inside of section 1, etc.

    Each printing plate was the size of one sheet of paper as seen in the final newspaper if you unfolded it. So each plate had two pages on it. One plate contained the first page and last page, another plate had page 2 and the next-to-last page. These two plates were printed on opposite sides of one sheet of paper.

    Each sheet of paper was produced on one “web”. Each web had its own monster roll of paper at one end, and printing plates in the middle. At the end opposite the rolls of paper, all the webs fed together into a machine which cut the sheets and folded the papers. The entire sections of the paper came out of the press, all collated and folded three times. I found a description of the combination former folder here, and though the diagrams are a little plain and simple, it’s an accurate description of what we had.…

    I’ve forgotten how many webs we could run simultaneously, but it was easy to run less than the maximum if a section of the paper was slim. Each web had a total of four pages (two on one side, two on the other), so four webs would allow 16 pages to a section, which might have been our limit.

    At the small paper where I worked, our press could only print one section at a time. Our paper normally had two or three sections. We came out twice a week. Section 3 might be printed a day early, and section 2 was printed early in the morning on “paper day”. Section 1 was the last to be printed, and the presses started running about 4:45pm, in time for evening delivery to start around 5:00pm. The process of inserting sections 3 and 2 into section 1 was entirely manual, and involved a lot of people, mostly at around minimum wage, working on stacks of papers, throwing the inner sections into section 1. I don’t believe the big newspapers do it that way.

  7. Toronto says: October 25, 201112:30 pm

    Richard: Ah! Thanks so much.

    So the Toronto Star must have at least 12 “webs”, as their sections occasionally hit 48 pages. Seems a bit uneconomical if they average 24 pages to a largish section. Hmm – it would also explain why some sections – like sports – with late breaking stories tend to be 8 or 16 pages.

    I do remember the separate sections. I would deliver a friend’s route (of a small paper) when he was away, back in ’68, and the sections came to the paperboy separated. I had to assemble them all and fold the paper just right or there’d be hell to pay. All for about a penny a paper a day.

  8. Mike says: October 25, 20117:02 pm

    And now newspapers are printed in some city that is several miles from the city the paper is being printed for. OF course newspapers are outdated before they go to print so it doesn’t matter. People use the newspapers for coupons now.

  9. Toronto says: October 25, 20118:07 pm

    Next you’ll be inferring that my Dymo tape labeler skills are out of date. Or my fanfold paper page separation technique.

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