I do recall when I was first interviewing for a job as Chief Librarian for The Sacramento Bee I flew out to Northern California and arrived in the evening. My first dinner was with my good friend and still friend Peter Haugen and his boss Scott Lebar. It was a very good drunk as I recall and the evening just kept on going until inspiration struck and Peter or Scott decided it best to show me the morgue in the newsroom in the wee hours of night. As we rolled up to the paper there were a few women who seemed really glad to see me. My genuine amazement was curtailed when it was explained they were regulars on Q street and I was led to the entrance. The Security was pretty good for 1984, the guard was reading the paper and just made me produce identification then laughed when I showed him my Canadian License.
The newsroom still had a few bodies perched in the photo department and it was very different from the Montreal Gazette, the only other newspaper I had worked for in my career. Still it was quite bright and Scott lead us through open desks with big Monitors and blinking green cursors on dark green screens. It was an SII jungle of terminals, with free standing poles that had extension cords running up through the ceiling like many garden trestles, but the flowers were replaced with wires. And how many different level of floors there were all leading back and down. In the lowest level facing West with no windows was probably the worst library I had ever seen. Old metal cabinets with counter tops rather than desks and at least eight of these big ugly puke brown terminals with two PC's. There must have been map cases and most of the space was filled with metal file shelves to the ceiling filled with vertical files and one bookcase of reference books. I laughed out loud and thought to myself you have to be kidding this isn't a library its a dead end.
But I hadn't met Mort Saltzman yet. Peter suggested it might be important to understand that all the stories are written, edited, copy edited and published using these big ugly terminals. He and Scott proceeded to show me how style was assigned, how words were turned into layout and the entire computer system was able to produce 140 pages per minute with full layout instructions for pre-press and the pressmen downstairs. Either Peter or Scott told me that in any given newspaper day, 18 deadlines per day, these folks produced the equivalent of a daily novel. Every day. 365 days a year. The Daily Miracle. I guess its why I thought to write this blog today.
Last night Julian King, Greg Carter, Bryan Rodgers and myself were the production staff for The Duke Basketball Bluebook: A Round-by-Round Guide to the NCAA 2012 Tournament. We produced and uploaded on two distribution platforms in just four hours! Of course it helped that we had veteran reporters: Al Featherstone, Carl Heimel, Jim Sumner, Barry Jacobs and photographer Robert Crawford. This is technology and old school journalism creating a book on deadline for all the new ebook readers, iPhone/android devices and lots and lots of tablets.
So, I did think back to my decision to move my family from lovely Canada to California and go to work for Mort Saltzman, AME and the finest newsman I ever met. I really loved working all the time for that man because of all the talent in the newsroom. Last night reminded me of why I love production. I'm hoping that the new ebook publishing will recruit more veterans from journalism to help reinvent the daily book. Go Duke!