Whenever the subject of publishing technology comes up, I find myself thinking about--and talking about, if anyone will listen--my grandfather and uncle. Both Frank Dailey Sr. and Frank Dailey Jr. were newspaper artists, mostly for New Jersey's Newark Evening News and its Sunday magazine. I know little about their respective careers--except that Uncle Frank was a victim of the great newspaper cataclysm of the 1970s, when afternoon dailies were dying left and right, or being absorbed by their morning competitors. The Evening News shut its doors in 1972, and Frank, then in his mid-50s, took to painting houses--which he did for the rest of his working life.
What I do know about Pop Pop's and Uncle Frank's leapfrogging newspaper careers, however, is this: In marked contrast to my career, the technology of their jobs remained largely the same from beginning to end. Somewhere in the collective family photo album spread among my siblings are remarkably similar photos of each of them at work, each hunched over drawing tables, each surrounded by the same paraphernalia--pencils, blades, paper, drawing board, bits of tape everywhere. Of course they both saw some changes--especially my uncle, who was there for the advent of "cold type" in the 1960s. But he wasn't a pressman, so the changes in his workaday technology were likely small--much as they were for writers and reporters. Just as Frank Jr. still created on paper and board, the scribes continued to clatter away on typewriters. At first, the only thing that changed was how that typewritten copy made its way to newsprint and glossy pages--now by way of photo-typesetting instead of molten lead.
And that was where things stood when I first walked into a newsroom in the late 1970s. For reporters and editors, it was as low-tech as it had been since the turn of the century. We typed on rolls of brownish paper; we edited with pencils and made major changes with scissors and glue. Really. But in the next few years the changes came fast and furious. We moved to "dumb" terminals, all wired to a single mainframe computer. Then we all got PCs. Then Macintoshes. Then it was all about the transition to "desktop publishing," gradually remaking the entire production and pre-press process. Finally it made its way to the printing presses themselves, with direct-to-plate technology. No color separations anymore, no film, no stripping. Today we send pages to the printer in the form of PDFs.
And of course now we're on the brink of another sea change in publishing--this one of much greater interest to the readers. What's changing now is not how the product is printed, but whether it's printed at all. There's no doubt in my mind, it won't be long at all before we're offering both a print and digital-reader version of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. And I'd like to hear what you think of that. Drop me a line at the e-mail address below--or, better still, come visit our booth at the Annapolis boat shows. I hope to see you there! If I miss you, leave me a note--you know, one of those quaint old things you make with paper and pencil.