I graduated from college (the University of Maryland) in 1993, at the tail of the print world. My training as a journalist was all in print. At the student newspaper, we “rolled” our newspapers. They were produced in long strips, and pasted on huge sheets of paper via a roller and wax. At the end of the nights, we had “roll” parties. My first jobs were in newspapers and weekly newspapers. We packaged originals in big flat black cases and took them to the printer.
I left that world behind gradually, as I imagine most of us did. Then, 10 years ago, when I started freelancing, I made a conscious choice to focus on online media. Career wise, I tried to become an early adopter, or at least not a laggard. I didn’t look back. I knew if I wanted to stay employed, I needed to let go of the joys of working in the print medium.
I’ve had a couple of experiences lately that reminded me how much I miss working on a print publication. I edited a print section for Crain’s New York. What a pleasure, to see an actual page. The other experience was bringing the pullquote to the online world, for the Wealthfront blog. I was thrilled to bring an element of the print world into the new age, and I’m hopeful that the online world will be able to reincorporate what was best of print.
That’s the intellectual view. Today, I just want to say how much I feel nostalgic for print. I miss the feeling of the physical limitations, of knowing that a story that is too long, must be cut. I miss doing the surgery of the word-by-word cutting. I miss the finality of print, and the precision demanded of editors and copyeditors because of that. I miss seeing the printing presses themselves, and watching those marvelous, huge pieces of machinery spin out hundreds of thousands of copies. I miss worrying about a “M” in a headline, or — God forbid — a “W.” I miss seeing my byline in print, in somebody’s hands at the local diner, or in the doctor’s office waiting room. I miss working with a designer, bending over the actual, print mockup of the page, and seeing our collaboration in reality instead of in the cloud.
The physicality of newspapers was a reminder of how true communication is a combination of art, craft and meaning. The newspaper was the craft part of the equation.