Monday, July 2, 2007

The Parthenon

No, no, not the monument in Greece... The student newspaper at Marshall University. I know I mentioned my involvement in this endeavor briefly yesterday while discussing snacks from the snack machine, but I thought I'd elaborate a little more.

I worked on the layout of the paper, which was done after 4 pm, after the writer's had turned in their stories for the day. We were generally there from 4 'til about 10 pm or sometimes later the first few days of a new term. The new reporters would inevitably miss deadlines, which would hold us up as well. As long as we had it pasted and ready to go by midnight, we were good.

The Huntington Police would take it to Wayne County, where a press out there would run it all night long and have the finished papers delivered back to the school by 6 am or so. So, if we had it complete by midnight, the cops would take it out, if we were later than that, someone else had to drive it out to the Wayne County press. I recall our manager doing just that on a few occasions. Yuck.

Anyway, this is back in the late 80s and we did it all by hand, still. The stories were sent from old VDT monitor computers to the phototypositor and then printed out on shiny paper in long form. In other words, whatever part of the paper you were working on was "dummied", or sketched out for whatever story went where. You had to find the story and the headline, cut them out and then send them thru the waxer. After waxing, you laid the headline in place and went to work on the article. If it was a three column layout, you'd divide your lines by three, try not to leave a widow (a line dangling all by itself, like the beginning of a line), and fit it in to the space provided for that article.

Then you'd go to your next article. Sometimes, the dummies called for outlines, or M tape. M tape comes in various thicknesses. I worked with M5 a lot. If your story had a box, you had to construct that box with M tape, mitre the corners and hand make that box. I became very handy with an exacto and M tape.

One night, I left work and went out somewhere. I had on a thick wool sweater. Someone said, "You have something stuck to your sweater", I turned to look back where they were pointing and on the end hem of my sweater, there was an entire roll of M tape dangling there. I stuck in it my purse and returned it to the office the next day.

The small crew who did layouts had a great time. We'd all be hunched over our own light tables, doing our dummies. Once you stuck the piece of waxy paper down, you had a roller thing that you'd press it down real hard. Couldn't risk having a column or headline falling off, because if that happened, the press wouldn't have it and that space would run empty. We also utilized weeby wipes. Weebies were soft cloths that were used to wipe down the page and make sure there was no extra wax on top of the articles or photos or headlines.

We'd crack jokes and talk about all kinds of inappropriate things. More than once, a jokester made fake headlines or captions on the phototypositor and would actually paste it on the dummy. The key was to remember to remove the offending item and replace it with the real one. Once, that didn't happen and a very terrible racist headline made the paper. For real. Worse yet, the joke was on an athlete and that didn't fly with most of the population at Marshall.

For the record, I never did stuff like that - I couldn't operate the phototypositor, and besides, I wouldn't have done it anyway, even if I could.

Believe it or not, I've caught up to the world of computer design - in fact, I did almost as soon as I graduated in 1991. Things had advanced so much between 1986 and 1991, I had to hit the ground running on my first real graphic design job. I still miss the old school ways a little bit.

But I don't miss that M tape. LOL.


  1. Ah, so much in common!

    I was the copy editor at my college newspaper, and fought with the M tape EVERY WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

    I often burned myself on the wax...

    I graduated 3 years after you, from a school MAYBE 45 minutes north/east. Any guesses?

  2. I graduated in 1991, but only worked on the paper for a couple of years when I first got there.

    Was it in OH or WV?

  3. I was in WV.

    Now that I think about it, 45 minutes may not be enough.

    I was in the ski area.