After something like 130 years, the Scarborough Evening News is ceasing to be six days a week. Unfortunately, the paper has decided not to cover in much detail its own demise, stating merely (in something akin to Orwell 1984 speak) that it is being 're-launched' as a weekly and going to a 'platform neutral' newsroom, whatever that means. I am sad that one of the few local dailies is being so diminished and also that staff will undoubtedly lose jobs and their sense of worth.
I started out when I left school thinking I would be a local newspaper journalist. Of course, I had grander plans for my writing, but I completed the National Council for Training Journalists pre-entry course (failed, to my enduring shame, my short-hand) and did a placement with the Western Morning News in Plymouth. Even then, things were changing. While I was there the printers went on strike protesting against the move to digital printing which would mean the loss of their jobs and the end of an era which required skilled printers. I remember walking through the print room with its huge and dormant presses, it felt like an abandoned cathedral to me.
Of course, 'progress' was unstoppable, the printing operation at the Western Morning News closed down (as it did at many other local newspapers) and the paper was produced at some anonymous digital printing firm on some industrial estate in the Midlands. The journalists and the sub-editors took over the page setting tasks once done by the print workers. The print workers were squeezed out. I returned to a newsroom a few years later and saw this burly chap unhappily hunched over a computer screen. I didn't have to be told that he was a re-deployed print worker, the ink was still ingrained under his fingernails.
Perhaps I shouldn't get too nostalgic. The print room (at least at the Western Morning News) was a woman free zone, and walking through it when it was in operation I was faced with much, as young raw feminist, which I found unacceptably sexist. For writers, digital printing has opened up the route to an audience in the way motorways opened up the country to city-dwellers suffocating in grime and pollution. Still I love old presses. I love the smell of ink. And I love the craft that can go into creating posters and books the old fashioned way.