← back to all news The power of the press continues to captivate Posted on Thursday 25th October 2018   |   0 comments

Gary Cullum observes news publishing star in press halls, show halls and on TV


MAYBE it’s my age, or my 40 years in newspapers dating back to the last of the hot metal days, but I continue to love the smell of printing ink when I enter a newspaper office – assuming it’s still running presses within its operation.

Sadly – for me, anyway – there are now fewer plants churning away, compared with my days as an apprentice at the back end of the 1970s. As a young reporter I loved the visit to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to watch the old Goss Urbanite press turn out the week’s print order for the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, where I was a most enthusiastic fire engine chaser.

And what a gut-wrenching churn in the stomach I had as I looked over every page of a Gazette still hot off the press – or, more specifically, the folder – to ensure it had been printed without any editorial blemishes. Blemishes that my old editor called cock-ups.

Many of my visits to news publishers today don’t include the smell of ink and paper; I’m invited mostly to look at software developments, and as exciting as that can be, it’s not quite the same.

I was delighted, therefore, to be invited to Westferry Printers at Luton in Bedfordshire late on a Sunday evening this month to see the newest addition to the Reach Printing Services group of print plants produce the first 420,000 copies of its five-night-a-week contract to print London copies of the Metro for dmg media.

And down in Thurrock on the Essex-London borders, Harmsworth Printing was producing another 400,000 copies of Metro that have been taken back in-house at the end of an outsourced contract. I wanted to get down to Thurrock, but time was against me.

However, dmg media group production director Julia Palmer-Poucher confirms that after great preparation and some trial runs, everything ran smoothly. All copies were produced and out of the shutters well inside deadline.

It was good to see state of the art presses producing pristine copy at 80,000 copies per hour – production skillsets you can see at any one of a number of UK and Irish print plants. I never tire of seeing the ability of heavy metal, and sophisticated software and colour management systems, laying down four colours perfectly one on top of the other on a flexible web. It’s at times like this you see the real power of the press, no pun intended.

* TALKING of the Press… My mate known to all as Dave Compositor has been enjoying watching Press on the BBC. He says it comes over as a leading red top daily versus a ‘take the moral high ground’ newspaper. “The whole thing’s just a caricature of the industry. The Post’s editor is everything that is bad about newspapers and the Herald’s chief reporter is everything that is good about journalism. The writers have painted the story with a great big brush and lots of colour. That said, it’s well worth watching,” says Dave.

* AS I type, Wan-Ifra’s World Publishing Expo (combined with the digital show DCX) is coming to a close in Berlin. For many it’s been a good show, for others it’s been quiet, and no official figures are available yet for the attendance. Certainly the UK presence has been sparse, given the responses to my pre-show ring round of industry colleagues.

And, as Caryl Holland reports opposite, a number of the conference sessions were conducted in German, giving the event more of a national, than international, feel. Long gone are the days of high speed running presses, pre-press and mailroom equipment being run through their paces; at this month’s event the most popular item on each stand was a coffee pot.

But ‘Ifra’, as we still like to call the show with affection, remains a valuable networking occasion and there was some valuable insight to be gained by attending some of the conference sessions and sharing experiences. Let’s hope a few more Brits make the journey next year when the show returns to the same Berlin venue.

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