In January 2020, The Gonzague Bulletin celebrated 100 years of storytelling. Since its founding in 1920, the Bulletin has printed 133 volumes, covering and covering the Great Depression, World War II, the women’s liberation movement, and local and academic news. But beyond the art of writing and reporting, how did the Bulletin get into the hands of its readers during all this time? To find out, I took a trip of over two weeks and went deeper into the printing process of the Gonzaga University Weekly.
The very first place I started my journey was in the alcoves on the fourth floor of the Foley Library, with Special Collections Librarian, Stephanie Plowman. Plowman oversees many of GU’s archives and treasures and was kind enough to let me leaf through the original WWII editions of the Bulletin.
With the advent of digital media, one of Plowman’s jobs was to microfilm the Bulletin’s archives so that readers could access them through the Foley Library.
âYears ago, I worked with Bulletin editors to figure out how to get the Bulletin online,â Plowman said in a 2020 interview with former Bulletin editor Lindsey Wilson.
One of the editors Plowman worked with was Raymona Baldwin, who was a writer, editor, photographer and columnist in the mid-1990s.
Baldwin remembers the ebb and flow of responsibilities during the week, with budget meetings on Sunday nights when stories were assigned, writing on Monday and Tuesday, and production on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
“Thursday nightâ¦ we were all filtering, basically, and back then there were two rooms and one of them was kind of like a computer lab with maybe 30 smaller machines (Apple 2s), then we had bigger layout machines in the next room finished, âBaldwin said.
She remembers that the two computer labs were networked. So even if two editors could not work on the same page simultaneously, several people could work on the design of the same section at the same time.
“[Networking] was pretty much essential to our process, âBaldwin said.
As the editorial team worked on designing the layout of each page, the sections would print out elements and start the shoe polisher, which was used to coat the pages.
âThere was a cabinet that was probably unique to newspapers, so it was kind of a set of drawers and on top it was big enough to spread out a large format,â Baldwin said.
Once finalized, the template pages were placed in a box to be taken to the printer, a box Baldwin says the editor kept with their life.
During her tenure at the Bulletin, the newspaper was printed overnight and picked up for distribution on Friday morning.
“[The editor-in-chief] would take them to the printer where the printer would put them on a camera and take a photo of the final product, making a negative, âBaldwin said.
This negative was used to create a printing plate that would be reproduced to create thousands of individual newspapers. Still, I wanted to learn more and compare Baldwin’s account to the process used by printers today.
The next stop on my trip took me off the beaten track, to a business park 25 minutes from campus. The company responsible for printing the Bulletin each week is Signature Graphics, located in Airway Heights, Washington. I visited their warehouse on a Thursday morning, just after this week’s issue of the Bulletin was printed overnight.
At the warehouse, I was greeted by Randy Pixley, director of sales and advertising for the company. A Vietnam veteran, Pixley made a living operating presses like the one the Bulletin is printed on, and eventually rose through the ranks to oversee the publications of grocery catalogs, local newspapers, election brochures and more.
As Pixley showed me around the facilities, I was transported back in time by the purring of offset presses spewing out hundreds of uniform, glossy newsletters. Copies of the Bulletin were still littered yesterday’s machine, and the process was buzzing without wasting a moment.
How do they do? After the Bulletin Editor sends a PDF file to Signature Graphics, each page is turned into a collapsible aluminum plate. The plate is the size of a full-size large format, which means that if one opened the Bulletin completely and laid it end to end, it would completely cover the plate.
These plates are transferred to the press’s rubber cylinders and ink is stamped to replicate the layout of the original aluminum plates. Color printing uses a spectrum of four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and colorless (black). Each image in the newspaper is derived from the overlay of these four shades, and they must be in resolution in order to pass for distribution. If a tint is not aligned, the problem will not be used.
Often newspapers come out faulty because the press is not yet running at full speed or has not reached its maximum temperature. The press on which the Bulletin is developed is a heat press, so the machine must reach 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit before producing quality newspapers.
Hundreds of grocery coupon brochures floated from the machine, and it occurred to me that newspaper operators could probably comfortably go through this process with their eyes closed.
âWe’ve probably worked with the Bulletin for over 30 years,â said Pixley and Ken Burch, another Signature Graphics executive.
Signature Graphics produces 1,600 numbers of The Gonzague Bulletin each week, a figure that Pixley says is slightly conservative compared to previous years, due to COVID-19.
âSo many companies have now gotten rid of their printing presses and sublet to people who still print,â Pixley said.
The fact that it always prints is the cornerstone of Signature Graphics’ success. Pixley notes that the company works with customers across the country, for example producing ACE Hardware newsletters for stores as far away as Florida.
In addition to my visit to Signature Graphics, I was able to come into contact with Jim McNally, a former editor and editor of the Reflections Literary Journal, one of the publications of the student media offices of the GU with The Gonzague Bulletin. McNally’s research began with browsing the Bulletin’s archives and eventually landed on McNally, one of the only staff from the early 1970s to be present online.
In a phone call with McNally, he recalled the challenge of printing Reflections during his tenure as editor.
âFrom 1972 to 1973, my final year, I was editor of Reflections and was given the responsibility of soliciting and producing nominations every year,â McNally said. âI had a very modest budget of $ 600 and had the flexibility to choose a printer within budget. “
The printing company McNally hired was Artcraft Printing, which is still in business today. Fifty years ago, Artcraft printing used offset printing when making newspapers.
In the decades since McNally’s transition to GU Student Media, however, the accessibility of publications has changed.
âThe process changed over the time I’ve done things,â Baldwin said. “At the end of my junior year, we were printing full pages and didn’t have to do as much custom pagination.”
Baldwin and McNally both recall their time working for the Bulletin and Reflections, Baldwin’s experience driving his passion and career in journalism, and McNally’s time on the committee of publication fueling rich and vibrant discussions that he believes shaped him into the adult he has become. .
âMost of the people came on Tuesday and wrote; it was a very social thing – that’s what I think journalism students forget now, is that it was so social back then, âBaldwin said. âYou introduced yourself and I wrote my articles next to my boyfriend who is now a prosecutor in Yakima. We would sit there and write articles next to each other. “
As I learned about the history of the Bulletin printing process, I remembered several things; the detailed know-how that goes into each issue, the need for collegial publications and the importance of making connections that can be compromised by the digital switch-over.
Continue to look forward to another 100 years of innovation The Gonzague Bulletin.