A day on the press floor

Not the press room, which is full of complaining newsies, but the press floor, which is full of gigantic machines that put ink on pages. A magazine production editor tells of his field tripat mediabistro.com :

A press floor is part Rube Goldberg contrivance, part Terry Gilliam spectacle, and part Henry Ford assembly line. It is loud, there is dirt, dust, and sour smells, and there are men in t-shirts with blackened coalminer hands and earplugs dangling around their necks on plastic ropes, like peyos. The presses, though unfortunately none were hand-cranked, ran the gamut from beastly iron two-color stationary camel-humped antiques to state-of-the-art automated, preset, preprogrammed cyborgs with running boards and pulsating illuminations. Behemoth Heidelbergs (a fitting name for these efficient appliances) chirped and droned out pages and pages of printed material. My guide and I stopped a moment to watch two operators, working with the choreographed precision of concert pianists, change the plates on one such contrivance. When they were done, we climbed aboard a narrow catwalk and stood over the tray where additional ink can be poured in. Staring down into the many visible and moving bits of the engine, I realized this was the part in the story where, were I Charlie Chaplin, my tie would get stuck in the rollers and I would be dragged into a gear-and-cog-infested underworld of elaborateness.

I still remember the visceral thrill of being on the press floor for the first time. There’s this marrow-rattling roar and those pages you’ve just finished are flying through the machine … the mechanical corollary to the deadline rush. Excellent.

1 comment for “A day on the press floor

Comments are closed.