Despite all the changes in the newspaper industry, the fundamentals of the printing process have remained the same since our Goss Metro press began operating on Jan. 15, 1968. It was the first offset newspaper press put into use in the western United States, and the technology was quickly adopted by virtually every other newspaper.
The process begins with flexible metal printing plates that are etched using a photographic process. For full-color pages, four plates are made: one for each of the four basic colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) that together make up all the colors of the rainbow.
The plates are then attached onto giant drums on the press units, and the press is started. As the drums spin, the plates are repeatedly coated with ink and washed with water, so the ink adheres only to the etching. The washed plate is quickly rolled onto a cylindrical rubber blanket. The ink transfers onto the blanket, and then offset onto the newsprint. The plate never touches the paper.
For a weekday edition, all four sections are printed at once and come together in the middle of the press, where they are cut and sent via a conveyor belt into the packaging room. There, machines insert the preprinted sections, such as advertising supplements or the Weekend section. At the far end of the packaging room, the newspapers are electronically counted, bundled and labeled for each route before sliding along a conveyor and out to the trucks waiting on the loading dock.
It all happens quickly. Most nights the press starts at 11:30 p.m., and our goal is to have the final paper on the final doorstep no later than 5 a.m. weekdays.