Daily News Community Editor Sandy Main says farewell after 38 years
Boy, have things changed at The Daily News in the 38 years I’ve worked here!
With technology growing by leaps and bounds, our newsroom today bears little resemblance to the one I joined in 1974.
Then, each desk sported a typewriter and the editor’s desk had the additional tools of a paste pot and blue pencil. He pasted the pages of a reporter’s story together end to end and edited it, marking the changes with his blue pencil. He had a tongue-in-cheek rule — you couldn’t write a story longer than you were tall.
Edited stories were typeset, trimmed, pasted on a page according to the layout drawn by the editor, and ads were pasted on too. All this happened in the composing room next to the newsroom. Then the page went to the camera department right next door to the composing room, where a huge camera took a picture of the page and a full-size negative was made. An aluminum plate was made from the negative and that went on the press, also located in the same building.
I had a foot in every department, not just the newsroom, when I became part of The Daily News staff back in 1974. I was hired as the proofreader, which back then meant I read every word that went in the newspaper — every story, headline and cutline, every display ad, every classified ad, every legal notice.
But changes were in the wind. Just two years later, The Daily News joined a handful of newspapers in the country when it went to computers in the newsroom. Now instead of typewriters, every desk had a computer. Reporters wrote their stories on a computer and the editor edited them on a computer. The proofreader position was eliminated as each department now proofed its own copy, so I moved into the newsroom as the family living editor.
Those first computers were all-in-one units with the keyboard and screen built in. The screens were tiny, about 6 or 8 inches across. They were just word processing machines, we couldn’t do anything other than write, but to us they seemed amazingly advanced. People would come to see them in action. I typed many a story with someone looking over my shoulder.
The storage unit for the computer system was the size of a refrigerator and we had two of them. Even so, their capacity was tiny by today’s standards. They had to be updated every day or they would get too full and we’d lose copy, especially Associated Press copy. Someone had to stop in at the office on the weekend to update them, too, or we’d have no AP stories come Monday morning.
A few years later we got a new computer system with larger screens, a few more functions and more storage capacity. About that time we started hearing about “pagination” — a system where a newspaper page could be designed on the computer screen, eliminating the cutting and pasting.
It seemed like an impossible dream. I remember going to a seminar with Alison Barberi, who at the time was the composing room manager.
As I recall, it was in Oklahoma City. We toured the newspaper there and they used pagination on a small scale. We got to see it in action. It was very primitive compared to what we have now but I thought it was wonderful. I remember coming home and telling editor Dave Higbie, “I want one!” I never thought it would really happen.
Then we got Macs. There really was a learning curve with that. They could do amazing things that our old computers couldn’t. They also crashed occasionally, which our old computers didn’t. Then if you hadn’t saved your work, it was gone. I remember the Mac trainer telling us, “If you finish something and think, ‘whew, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to do that again,’ be sure to SAVE IT!”
Finally, the dream of pagination became a reality. It was even more wonderful than seemed possible a few years earlier. We designed our pages right on the computer screen. They still were printed out and pasted on the page, only in big chunks now. The ads still were pasted on separately.
But digitization was just down the road. Now the newspaper pages are all designed on the computer. The ads are designed on computers by the graphic artists (no more composing room). After news and ads are all placed on the page, it is sent digitally to the prepress department, now located across town.
Even the sound of the newsroom has changed. That earlier newsroom was noisy with the tap-tap-tap of typewriters and the clackity-clackity-clack of the Associated Press wire machine. Today, all you hear is the faint click-click-click of computer keys.
Technology has changed but we’re still committed to the same purpose we were 38 years ago — bringing our readers local news, much of which they can’t get anywhere else.
As for me, my title has changed over the years but essentially I do the same things I’ve done since 1976 — report on the many events happening in the communities The Daily News serves and produce the pages featuring those events.
Staff members have come and gone for 38 years but my presence always has been a constant at The Daily News — until now. When I walk out the door at the end of the day on March 29 it will mark the beginning of my retirement. I still will write the “From the Archives” column on the second and fourth Friday in The Daily News and the “Once Upon a Daily column” each week in the Daily News Extra, but I’ll no longer be a regular at 109 N. Lafayette St.
I’ve seen many changes in the last 38 years, but this will be the biggest. I’ve made many friends both at work and in the community and I will miss you all.