Meet the press

Interview by Elling Lien
Photos by Mark Bennett

Back in July of 2006 it was quite a thrill to see the bundles sitting on a pallet at the back of the Transcontinental warehouse on Austin Street.

There it was. The first issue of The Scope—8 pages and 6,000 copies.

Almost four years and 99 issues later, we average 24 pages and we print upwards of 14,000 copies every two weeks, still picking it up from the same warehouse.

I spoke with Dianne Gladney, our sales rep, and Don Decker, crew chief.

The press is running. It’s loud.

Diane, you were here when it was Robinson Blackmore…
Dianne Gladney: Yes, yes… I was here before it was Robinson Blackmore, when it was The Daily News. The Daily News was a newspaper back in the day, but then they got into the printing. Then it became Robinson Blackmore, which was a printing company.

Is this the same press that they used?
DG: They’re after having different presses. That’s the press that was put in here 20 years ago. That’s how long ago this one has been going.

Things have changed in 20 years…
DG: [laugh] Printing has changed so much over the years. Oh my God! Even here, the printing process itself.

Computers have taken over so much. It’s really killed the printing industry, the computer.

Anyone who has a computer now has a printer, and calls themself a graphic designer. They’ll design something, send it to us and half the time you can’t work with what they’ve got.

[laugh] I know. We were like that until probably three issues ago.
DG: But there’s always something to learn. It’s not something you learn overnight.

Have things changed?
DG: Oh, man, has it ever changed. I mean at one time you typed up a story and you waxed the back of it, stuck it down and then rolled it out..

It’s unbelievable how everything changed. Say you wanted a letterhead: People gave you an idea and you designed something for them or you created a logo and you actually typed out stuff, and drew up an 8 1/2 x 11 area and you stuck it on and you rolled it. You used wax on the back of the paper to hold it down, then you photographed it… Oh my god.

But today it’s so different. You create letterhead on your computer in a few minutes and it looks professional.

The press has stopped. Don comes over.

DG: Don, if you could give us two minutes…

This is our hundreth issue this week. We wanted to come to talk to you guys…
Don Decker: [laugh] Are you here to do an exposé on me?

No, just to ask a few questions. Because we wouldn’t exist if you didn’t exist.
DD: Well it kind of goes both ways actually.


CTP — Computer to Plate. Where the plates are made for the web press.

So, the press… We send the file to you, it’s processed and the plates are made in pre-press using technical magic, then what happens?
DD: They send it to us from CTP (Computer to Plate) and [he flips through the plates] that’s what it looks like before you put it on each unit. That’s eight pages of a book.

Each colour has a plate. Red, yellow, blue and black makes up process colour. The page numbers are laid out depending on where you want the colour…


One of the plates on the press

It still takes me a while to wrap my head around it.
DD: It’s not rocket science. But it’s simple to us because we’ve been at it 36 years.

How did you get into it?
DD: I’ve been here 36 years. Started right out of high school. Seventeen. I took a summer job. I had a friend working here a little bit older than me. Thta’s how I found out about it.

Printing was a much bigger business back then.
DD: Oh yeah, it’s not as big now. We’re not near as busy as we used to be. We used to run two shifts. For nine or ten years we had three shifts. The Daily News, all the Sears flyers, Canadian Tire flires, Shoppers Drug Mart, K-Mart, Zellers, that was done here.

Now the flyers are all done on the mainland.

DG: Anything that’s heat set is now done on the mainland—you know, that glossy look? We can’t do that here. There’s none here on the island.

But we do a fair amount of papers now. We do The Muse, and The Shoreline, The Gazette, North-East Avalon Times, your paper… We do flyers for only a few of the smaller groceries…

DD: Back then, you’d average 800 to a million copies every week.

And how busy are you now?
DD: To give you an example, right now a busy week for us would be about 250,000.

It’s a big difference. We only have one shift now as opposed to two or three.

So when The Scope arrives, and the plates are made, how long does it take to do the whole run of say a 24 page paper, around 14,000 copies?
DD: It takes about an hour and a half to make it ready, and an hour and 45 minutes to run it. Which is fairly slow, for a web press. This is a small format press…

It just rolls through? The plates are inked and the paper is just pulled through?
DD: It rolls around in circles, like a rat on a treadmill.

DG: Like a hamster going around on a wheel!

Does anything unusual ever happened?
DG: Yeah, you get paper breaking and you have to stop the press…

DD: All types of stuff can happen. It may depend on the quality of the paper you have in, but sometimes you get flaws and that. Sometimes there are mechanical errors, or we make mistakes.

DG: But these guys don’t make mistakes! We’re still waiting for Don to make his first mistake. [laugh]

DD: That’s right. Exactly. When I make one I’ll be the first one up to tell you when one happens. [laugh]

I have to say, I love the quality of the press here. Things seem to print really well.
DD: Well this is it. Our quality is as good as anybody’s, you know? The Telegram press can’t compare to that thing because it’s just too big over there.

So is there ever anything funny that happens during the process?
DD: [laugh] No, only what you fellas are putting in the paper. We get a few laughs out of that stuff.

Usually the inside, near the back?
DD: Yeah. We see all kinds. The Muse has some funny stuff in it and The Current has some good stuff in it. Your paper, definitely.

DG: Why what’s on the inside back cover?

The sex column.
DG: Oh.

That’s where most people look first, actually. [laugh]
DG: Is that true?

Yeah.
DD: Don’t mind her! Over in sales they only care about the bottom line! [laugh] Don’t mind the sales people, b’y.

[laugh]
DG: I never noticed.

Listen, don’t start reading it.
DG: If I had to read everything that came through here, I wouldn’t get any work done!

[laugh]
DD: That’s right.

Well, thanks you two…
DD: We look forward to the next issue. Always something interesting to read.

We hope so. [laugh] Thanks.


Don Decker and Dianne Gladney of Transcontinental with Elling Lien

26 comments

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31 December 2010

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    99 already, wow!
    Nice interview and pics guys.

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