The last run – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Press operator Mike Seaney says goodbye to the Mail Tribune press before its last run Thursday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

A skilled team of press operators and production and distribution staff did their thing for the final time Thursday night.

Without them, nothing written or photographed by the Mail Tribune news staff over the past century could have made it into the hands of readers.

Most of the longest-running employees in the Mail Tribune pressroom have lived their lives around the daily news. As the presses were heating up one final time, carriers waited for their final stacks of newspapers and production facility employees stared down a final farewell to keepsakes, memories, inside jokes and the well-worn machinery of the pressroom.

Mailroom “kids” who climbed the ranks are now the bosses just a few years from retirement age. Karen Redfield, production department manager assistant, started as an ad inserter in 1991. Her sons, now adults, were 1 and 9. This week, her oldest, now 39, was set to be married Friday. A dozen flags that were hung in the press building windows when he left for the Navy weeks after 9/11 still filter the outside light.

“Everybody starts as an inserter, so that was what I did,” Redfield said, noting she had done everything from forklift driving and maintenance to managing pre-prints at the Ashland Daily Tidings.

“It was good because I was able to work at night while my babies were home sleeping. I’ve done everything in this building except for make a bale in the baler because they’re so heavy.”

Redfield said production facility employees weren’t entirely shocked at the announcement earlier this month that the Mail Tribune would cease printing the paper Sept. 30, after 134 years in print.

“We’re fairly pragmatic. Most of us are on the correct side of 50-plus, and we all understand that life goes to a certain point, and then you have new parts of life, and you have change,” she added.

Redfield said the increasing prevalence of digital newspapers in recent years has been a growing reminder that the days of print media were numbered. Still, Redfield and crew were proud of their devotion to putting out a quality product over the years, especially over the past two years.

“All of us across this entire building got to make a choice, and every one of our staff stayed during the entire pandemic and worked. Every shift. We were all in it together,” she said.

“We had every safety precaution we could do — masking and distancing — but we never missed a beat, never missed a paper. We knew we needed to protect ourselves for our families, but we also were committed to keeping it going for the community.”

She added, “The dedication of the people who work in the newspaper industry speaks for itself.”

Redfield recalled the ins and outs of putting out the daily paper, from massive Thanksgiving ad inserts and waiting for last-minute political headlines on too-close races. More recent changes included fewer print days, dropping in August 2021 from seven days to four.

Pressroom Manager Tim Grogan, in his navy blue pressman shirt — painters wear white, printers wear blue — was busily setting up Wednesday’s paper Tuesday night, too busy still “putting out a paper” to figure out what would come next.

Now 52, Grogan started “stuffing inserts” at age 17. He moved to Portland not long after, working in a print shop for just over a year before returning after production machinery had been moved, anticipating construction of the two “new” Mail Tribune buildings in downtown Medford in the early 1990s.

“It moved over to Bryan Way while I was gone, between ’88 and ’91. I started working in the mailroom again, with that inserting machine on Bryan Way. I did that until May of ’93 before I moved into the pressroom as a bottom level apprentice, making 60% what the other guys made,” said Grogan.

Former longtime press boss John Aldridge waited for what felt like an eternity before letting Grogan run the 30-ton, three-story press, a 1988 Goss Metroliner 2, once used by the Wall Street Journal.

“He felt very comfortable with the guys that knew what they were doing — having them do it. I was here for almost eight years before I ever got to run the press. Steve Wilson, one of the older guys here at the time who was our main press operator, he decided this one day that THIS was the day I was going to start running. Steve said, ‘OK, John, Tim’s gonna run the press today. So John comes walking down and said, ‘Tim’s gonna start this thing up. I’m gonna watch this.’ He was standing there with his arms crossed, and I was so nervous,” Grogan recalled.

“I started it up — didn’t blow out any webs — and started printing. I walked over, grabbed a paper and walked back to start doing my settings, and I heard John lean over to Steve and say, ‘He started it up like a professional!’

I said, ‘Well, I sat around and watched it being done for eight years!’”

Grogan said anyone in print media would have been remiss to have not expected eventual slowdown of printed papers. Whether creatively sourcing replacement press parts or watching ink and paper prices nearly double in recent years, Grogan understood that the old press would eventually go the way of the ancient Linotype sitting at the front of the building.

“A few years ago, I started almost joking that this is probably not going to be here long enough for me to retire from. And we never knew exactly when, but there was always that thought in the back of our minds. It was a bit of a surprise for it to all of a sudden just happen. But I fully understand why,” he said.

“I order all the newsprint and the ink and everything. Newsprint has gone, in only about two years, or not even quite that long, from less than $500 a metric ton to now almost $1,000. … There’s only one paper mill left to buy from where there used to be three.”

Grogan said he’d take some time to figure out “what next.”

“It’s been a great career. I’ve had a consistent job here for 31 years. … The thought of turning off the lights and leaving and never coming back, I’m not sure how that will feel. I don’t know how to be unemployed yet, but to think that papers could one day all just be digital, and nothing printed … doesn’t seem right.”

Matt Talley, youngest of four pressmen at the Mail Tribune, began as an “18-year-old kid” seven years ago, learning “to do everything from the ground up.” Setting up the first of three final papers Tuesday alongside pressman Bob Caldwell, he was nostalgic about “growing up” in the pressroom — and grateful for the experience.

“I feel content, to be honest. I checked everything off my list. I started as just a kid, and I get to say I was one of the last few people to print a newspaper in the valley,” he said.

“I’ve been here my whole adult life — used to pay for my grandfather’s subscription until he passed. … I’m really gonna miss this place.”

Heating up the presses on Thursday, pressmen Grogan, Talley, Bob Caldwell and Mike Seaney worked one last time, like a well-oiled machine. Longest tenured in the pressroom, Seaney was nostalgic about his roots with the paper. His father began in the 1950s, as a printer, using the old Linotype.

“My dad set the type and all that. And my mom — I was probably in her belly when she was delivering papers. I remember, when I was 16 or 17, Dale Erickson, who was in charge of circulation at the time, hollered at my mom and said, ‘When you gonna get that guy a job?’” Seaney said, noting that he started in circulation in 1977 and started in the pressroom in 1981.

Marking his 45-year anniversary in August, Seaney was sad but grateful to be present for the “final run.”

“I was planning on going until 67, but when they went to four days a week, I realized we were really losing circulation. In the heyday, we were around 30,000 subscribers. Fridays and Sundays it was even higher. Now we run about 8,000. We knew digital was taking over,” he said.

“Things have certainly changed a lot since I first came to work here, but I’m sure grateful for all the years that I’ve had … It’ll be a new adventure, hopefully.”

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.

Karen Redfield, who started as an ad inserter in 1991, drives a forklift Wednesday at the Mail Tribune press building. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Mail Tribune pressroom Manager Tim Grogan starts the press Wednesday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Matt Talley, youngest of four pressmen at the Mail Tribune, loads a plate on the press. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Papers fly off the press in downtown Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Mail Tribune press ran for its final time Thursday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Tools of the trade. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Jeanne Ames, left, and Janis Bryan, production staff, load papers onto a pallet in the Mail Tribune production building. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Janis Bryan stacks papers. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Papers move along the gripper conveyors. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Papers move through the production process on gripper conveyors. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Mail Tribune press ran for its final time Thursday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The 1988 Goss Metroliner 2 was once used by the Wall Street Journal. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Mail Tribune press ran for its final time Thursday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Mail Tribune street boxes await new uses. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The final printed copies of Tempo make their way down the line Thursday evening. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Source link