Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate Staff Mike Shea, Advocate compositor, overlooks the press at the Red Deer Advocate.

Changing newspaper production

Every night, after most of the staff has left, the daily press run of the Red Deer Advocate begins.

The noisy press gets going and pumps out the news at a rapid rate, committing the stories of the community to paper and getting them ready for the community to see.

Getting the paper to print has changed at the Advocate as recently as within the past year, but that change is a far cry from how the paper was once printed.

Mike Shea, with the Advocate for 40 years, has seen significant changes to how the paper is produced every single day. When he started with the Ottawa Journal in 1971, that paper still used the hot metal typesetting method.

There was a time when the Advocate too employed the typesetting method to get the paper onto plates for printing. Stories, ads, classifieds were all manually typed to create the plates the newspaper would be printed on.

“You knew when you made a mistake typing, because you could hear every click,” said Shea, as he typed out lines onto the press plates. “When you screwed up you scrapped it.”

At the time the presses used lead so that meant Shea would go home every morning with his arms dirty from the night’s work.

“You walked in clean, you walked out filthy,” he said. “It was such a dirty process. You had to spread the ink on the rollers with a brush. There was so much ink and dust.”

This same process was once employed to get the Advocate out every day. And before the ability to type out words and lines for the plates, individual letters would be typed out.

Now, the process of getting the paper to print combines lasers and a room similar to a dark room, where pictures were once developed from film.

“It just mesmorized us all,” said Shea.

There’s no typesetting involved anymore. A computer file is sent to the printer where a digital image is exposed onto a metal plate with lasers.

Ten years ago, when the Advocate switched to the digital image printing, there was a second stage where the metal sheet would be processed through chemicals, similar to how photographs were developed.

The newest process, adopted within the past year, at the Advocate doesn’t use chemicals to process the plates.

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