ARMCHAIR MAYOR - Stop the press! - newspaper won't be the same

Our community lost something important this week - it will no longer have a newspaper that is produced from start to finish in Kamloops.

The Daily News will shut down its pressroom and mailroom. The paper will be sent electronically to a printing plant in Vernon. The papers will be trucked back here.

The change won't be noticeable to the reader. The paper will look pretty much the same. News deadlines won't change. Even our building will look the same to the public, since the presses are located in our basement, and few people ever see them and the mailroom in operation.

Nevertheless, to say I'm sad, and disappointed, is an understatement. In a sense, this is a eulogy for 31 lost jobs and a way of doing newspapers.

Our corporate owners haven't done it to hurt people. It's business. But that doesn't make it any easier.

Many of the 31 - seven full-time and 24 part-time - have worked here for many, many years. Some have virtually grown up here. They've kept that old press, and the aging inserting machine, together with duct tape and string for 42 years.

Some will be lost to our community as they uproot and find work elsewhere. To those of us who remain, it's like losing a family member multiplied by 31.

They say ink runs in the veins of people who work for newspapers. The smell of ink is part of newspapering.

The silence from downstairs - no longer interrupted by the reassuring rumble of the press when someone opens a door to run up or down the stairs with a page negative, tracking ink all the way - will be hard to get used to.

Every once in awhile, an editor has the privilege of bursting into the pressroom and yelling, "Stop the press!" Saying it over the phone to a stranger in Vernon won't be the same.

But this is about 31 people and a tradition.

The first units of the press arrived in Kamloops in 1969. For my entire career at this newspaper, we've proudly printed our product ourselves. Through its progression from The News Advertiser to The Kamloops News to The Daily News, from its growth from a weekly to a daily, we've always had a press and a mailroom.

When we "went daily" in 1982, we moved the press from Briar Avenue to the former Woodward's department store at 63 West Victoria. The pressroom was only a few yards from my office.

When we bought our current building in 1992, the press was moved in a weekend. It was quite a feat. Several of the people who'll be losing their jobs sweated non-stop that weekend to make sure we didn't skip a single edition.

A lot of stuff is written about the online challenge to newspapers, how papers have to change or die. Some say it wouldn't be such a bad thing if newspapers disappeared.

I strongly disagree, of course. There's evidence that newspapers are showing signs of winning back readers and advertisers, though the industry as a whole isn't as profitable as it used to be.

Newspapers are consolidating to become more efficient. Instead of being stand-alone operations, more and more are being produced in centralized facilities.

Where once there might have been a dozen printing plants each in its own community, now a single plant can do the job more cheaply. Even production departments, page layout and newsrooms are being centralized in some places.

The press and mailroom have been part of what made us a newspaper. We'll still be a newspaper, and a pretty good one, but it will be different now, a little less fun.

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