Friday, September 27, 2013

Back to the future?

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a new college graduate working in my first job as a magazine editor in a place called Norcross, Georgia, in what was then a rural area northeast of Atlanta. I was a "junior" editor on a magazine called Industrial Engineering, published by an engineering trade association. I worked there four years, with a wonderful editorial staff led by a man named Bob Rice, who invited me to his church, which started a long chain of events that led to my changing careers twenty years later to go to seminary. But I digress.

Industrial Engineering was printed at a company called The Lane Press in Burlington, Vermont. Some time ago it dawned on me that I was living just across Lake Champlain from Burlington, and I wondered if The Lane Press was still in business. It is. It has moved to larger quarters since the days when my magazine was printed there, but the company is now more than a hundred years old and still turning out small to medium press run magazines, many for trade associations and college alumni groups. It has been printing an incredibly beautiful magazine called Vermont Life at least since 1947. In the early 1970s, when Lane was publishing Industrial Engineering, our customer service rep used to send us copies, and we would ooh and ahh over the gorgeous photos of the famous Vermont fall foliage.

And this is what Vermont really looks like. At least it does from South Burlington, at the offices of The Lane Press. Imagine seeing this every morning when you drive to work.

Today we visited The Lane Press and got a tour from a very helpful and friendly lady named Erin, who took us through the plant. Much has changed in publishing from the days when we used to send them typewritten copy and they would typeset it and send us galleys. We would paste up "dummies" on 11 x 17 layout sheets, from which they would make camera-ready copy. After several rounds of proofreading, they would print the magazine.

By the time I left the publishing world in the mid-1990s, magazine staffs were preparing digital layouts on computers using a program called Quark XPress. Today it's even more complex. Back in the day, the one thing that got us home at night was that the last FedEx pickup in Atlanta was around 9:00 p.m., so whatever we were trying to get to the printer the next morning had to go out by then. Now, with the ability to send files back and forth over the Internet, who knows how late we would be at the office. Or maybe we could do this stuff on a computer at home.

Here I am at the headquarters of The Lane Press. It only took me 40 years to do a plant visit.

Next week, we go to my 40th class reunion at Syracuse. I am so excited! I look forward to the Dean's Breakfast at the Newhouse School to hear the latest in the world of public communications. I remember an afternoon I struggled in the graphic arts lab to get the type perfectly straight on a mechanical I was doing for a class project and just couldn't get it straight enough for the professor's standards. By the time I attended my 20th reunion, the graphic arts lab was full of Macs, and not a single drawing board (a slanted graphic artist's work table) was left. (So much for the phrase, "back to the drawing board." A what?)

Time marches on. I can't say I miss the old ways of doing things. Forty years ago, we didn't have blogs, either. But if they had been around, I would have had one.