Fresh off the press

Darren D'Altorio

how the Daily Kent Stater gets to you

VIEW photos of the printing process for the Daily Kent Stater.

These words might be staring at you from the floor of a bathroom stall or classroom. Like money, this issue of the Daily Kent Stater may pass through the hands of multiple people throughout the day, used momentarily to satisfy a Sudoku craving, provide a horoscope or offer a colorful distraction in a boring lecture class. Whatever its purpose, its fate is certain: reckless abandonment by the reader. This cycle repeats as the title suggests, daily.

How does this cycle happen? How do ideas, characters and stories become words and pictures set in ink that stain readers’ fingers?

8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Students in Franklin Hall, home of Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, start work in the converged newsroom, the spinal column of the Daily Kent Stater and all student media. Throughout the day, reporters roam Kent State’s campus and the surrounding community, working on stories and going to classes. The daily production of the newspaper involves more than 120 students, from reporters to photographers, ad sales reps, editors and designers. Near 5 p.m., the newsroom is bumping. Editors flock around computers, reading over their reporters’ stories and prepping the story for its next round of editing at the copy desk. Deadlines come and go, and designers and photo editors go to work. The template layouts for the next day’s paper must be filled with content.

10:15 p.m.

At this point, the pages are coming together back in the newsroom. But Daniel R. Doherty, assistant photo editor; Katie Carlson, graphics editor; and I are racing down Interstate Highway 77 South in my Subaru en route to The Times Reporter in New Philadelphia, Ohio. The purpose of our 60-mile trip to The Times Reporter: to see and experience the printing press that rifles out the Daily Kent Stater every night. As I handle the subtle twists and turns in the I-77, the supervising editor back in the Franklin Hall newsroom sends the electronic document layouts of the newspaper pages via cyberspace.

11:25 p.m.

We arrive at The Times Reporter. Al Green, commercial sales manager for The Times Reporter, gives us a jolly, hand-shaking hello. He says the documents beat us. Conclusion: Cyberspace is faster than my Subaru. We enter the production office, the first step in the process.

11:30 p.m.

In a massive production room/newsroom, Becky Renicker, production and graphics coordinator at The Times Reporter, sits alone in the glow of a computer monitor. She is prepping the electronic documents sent from the newsroom at Franklin Hall for conversion into a negative, similar to a camera film negative. The individual negatives created correspond to each specific color – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – and combine by layering the negatives to create the full-color images seen in the newspaper.


This is when we met “the stripper,” Laura Illing. Illing is not an exotic dancer. She is responsible for taping off – stripping – the companion negatives that come together to create the words and images a reader sees in the newspaper. Her job is very precise. She must line up the negatives perfectly so they correspond to make a clear picture. Any alignment error, even a fractional one, will become exponential in the printing process, producing a distorted final product. When the stripped negatives are complete, Illing takes them to what looks like a gigantic photocopier known as the plate burner, which is calibrated to produce a perfect, right-reading copy of the newspaper onto magnesium photosensitive plates. The plates look and sound like sheet metal, thin and razor sharp along the edges. “The image on here is transferred to a rubber impression roller, then from the rubber impression roller to the paper,” Green says. When the plates are done, the paper goes to print.

12:40 a.m.

“It’s like a freight train,” Green shouts over the continuous bells and whistles and whirrs of the printing press. Around 50 yards long and more than 20 feet tall, the “Goss Community” press is a beast. As we descend the steel stairway from the plate-making room onto the printing-press floor, the noise grows with every step. A crew of “pressmen” walk the ink-stained floor. They look like auto mechanics, sporting dirty hands, blue Dickies pants, steel-toed work boots and shirts with embroidered nametags. Russ Stewart, head pressman, said a job is just about to finish, and then the Daily Kent Stater is next in line. Stewart said the paper spools contain seven miles of paper and the press converts the blank white to vivid newsprint at a rate of 10,000-12,000 newspapers per hour.

12:55 a.m.

The Daily Kent Stater goes to press. Stewart explained that the plates are loaded into their specific color section of the press where the image transfer from plate to rubber occurs. When the paper enters each one of the four sections – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – a chemical treats the paper to repel ink from the sections the color is not present, only allowing a transfer where the rubber has the image pressed onto it. As the paper makes its way through each section, the layers from the negatives come together. Before long, a completed paper is buzzing past our faces. Then a machine folds and cuts each paper before spewing them onto a conveyer belt to be bundled. Stewart says he and his crew take pride in the final product.

4:30 a.m.

Dennis LaGlise and Bill Owen arrive at The Times Reporter. They are the delivery drivers for the Daily Kent Stater. Every morning they pick up the paper in New Philadelphia and drive the 60 miles to Kent State to place papers in every paper rack and local business on campus and in the city. When students’ eyes are peeled back by the new day’s sun, those papers are waiting.

“Even if a student reads a paper for ten minutes and learns one thing,” Tim Magaw, editor of the Daily Kent Stater said, “hours of work went into that one thing.” The process of creating a daily newspaper is extensive, consisting of planning, communication and many hours of work. Ten thousand people read the Daily Kent Stater every day. In a nation where newspapers are dying by the day, this audience and community play a vital role in both business and communication. Pressman Stewart said it best, “You guys are doing a good job up there. We need you, and we thank you for that.” And we need them at the printing press, too.

Contact features correspondent Darren D’Altorio at [email protected].