The last run

The Record’s TKS web press ran for its last time on the night of October 20.

The press was first run in late April of 2005. The Record’s then-corporate owners Ottaway replaced an old Goss press which dated back to the 1950s.

For the photographers it was a welcome change. The Goss machine was what was known as a letterpress system. It used raised type for words and tiny raised dots to reproduce the photos. It was adequate for black and white photos but for color pictures, which we started to do regularly in the 1990s, the story was different.

To print color pictures, an additive 4-color process (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) where each color ink is laid down atop of the next, is used. The old Goss wasn’t really designed for this. Lining up each color (known as registration in newspaper parlance), was difficult to do accurately.

The newer TKS press was an offset press. It used plates that were smooth to the touch. It employed the concept of water and oil not mixing. Oil-based inks would adhere to the image areas of the plate and water to stick to the non-image areas. The system could handle more detail with greater accuracy than the old Goss press ever could.

Newspaper presses are huge machines. The TKS stands nearly 3-stories tall and half a city block long. Ottaway not only installed the press but also a new state-of-the-art mailroom system (the mailroom is where the paper is packaged form delivery) and built a new building around all of it. It was our pride and joy.

There were some birthing pains with the first couple of runs of the TKS press but once the pressmen got the hang of it, it’s been relatively smooth sailing ever since.

I never really got to know the press guys. Their day would start late at night, hours after even my latest shift would end. But I came to quickly appreciate their efforts. Through their hard work the photos in the paper looked very close to how I shot them. In short, day in and day out, they made me look good. Though I never got to tell them, I appreciated their hard work.

Our new corporate owners, Gatehouse, decided to shut down the TKS press, citing cost-cutting reasons. The newspaper is now printed in Sacramento and trucked to Stockton. 40 pressmen and mailroom employees lost their jobs.

I was there on the press’s last run as were other current and former employees. The Record’s former publisher Roger Coover and current publisher Deitra Kenoly were also on hand. It was like gathering to say goodbye to an old friend.

The pressmen were upbeat when they got to work at about 11:00 p.m. They installed the plates and prepared the giant rolls of paper to be run through the press.

Kenoly got to press the button to start the last run. It was then I realized that the newspaper as such only existed as photons on a screen or ones and zeros in a computer until the moment that the press started. Then it became a physical thing than you can hold in your hands. A newspaper, created by journalists and crafted by people running the press.

The press wound up slowly at first, like a slow jog, then worked its way up to a steady trot. Soon it was like a galloping horse set free to run. It was quite something to see and hear. The print on continuous sheet of paper was a blur and sound of the machinery was not unlike a diesel locomotive running in open country.

The pressmen occasionally grabbed a finished paper from a conveyor that came off of the press. The inspected the pages look to see it there was too much ink here or too little there. From the control room they pressed buttons on a panel to fine tune the press’s run.

At about 1:00 a.m. the run was over and the press slowly wound down. In the last edition of The Record to come off of the TKS, I had photos on page 1, local and sports. The pressmen did their work for the last time, efficiently, professionally and without any maudlin bitterness, as they always have, and once again made me look good.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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