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Archive for June, 2012

In the hallway of 2317 there’s an old Linotype machine in a corner, a black iron and brass monstrosity with a keyboard and pulleys and wheels and levers. From a chain hangs a giant lead ingot that was slowly lowered into a hot melting pot. As the keyboardist typed, the letters or words were formed in a “line of type” and then sent off for the rest of the process.

When I started in 1988 at the scrappy and fun Huntsville News, we’d moved on to a worn out, hand-me-down roller press over on Clinton. It was dirty as hell, looked like Death had a hand on it and yet Horace, Mo and the crew finessed it, caressed it and applied tough hammer-time love to get that little daily out each night. We weren’t allowed to print on Sunday, but we valued our daily duties and did our best as the underdogs.

Horse, buggy, Linotype …

It was music to our ears when that old press was humming and the floor was thrumming. It didn’t jiggle your guts like in the grandstands at Talladega when 38 cars come by. It was merely a soft vibration – loud as hell! – that let you know another day’s work was coming to a close and in less than 24 hours you’d do it again.

Changes are afoot, and they are not all good. They will not all be as beneficial as believed or touted and, in some instances, will hurt the product tremendously. That is yet to be seen in at least four cities and, presumably, others.

But in the hallway of 2317 there’s an old Linotype machine in a corner, a black monstrosity with a keyboard and pulleys and wheels and levers.

Above it is a framed column, or used to be a column, written by the paper’s greatest columnist and perhaps it strongest voice of conscience. He would not have been pleased with what is transpiring and what is becoming of the industry, or those who are making decisions. He would not have gone quietly into the good night, and rightfully so.

A column down the left leg, counting the sig and head and giant initial and bottom tag, was roughly 15.85 inches long. About 15-17 paragraphs, give or take, and a good writer knew how to carefully massage every damn ragged right line to milk the most out of that precious space.

I used to read that column on the wall and feel the metal of the Linotype. Sounds goofy? It’s not. We need to be reminded of where we’ve come from, and not always how “great” it will be where the road supposedly leads even if there are greener pasture ahead.

Bill Easterling’s column was headlined “That thing is history and more.” I miss ol’ Bill, and the General and the crew.

I hope folks in 2317 stop to read Bill’s column and think about what’s transpired in that building over the years, and the impact on the city, and the repercussions of these decisions being made. This era will not go quietly into the good night, and rightfully so.

Originally published June 2012

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