The Journeymen

Thinking of my newspaper days led me to a column by Ed Arnold, who was Editor at the Examiner during my time there. Back in 2009, Ed wrote about Terry Keating, who was the foreman in the composing room; Terry was the man who hired me. Ed wrote:

He’s not quite 100 yet, a mere 43 years away, but it was 40 years ago last week that Terry Keating started working at The Examiner.

He worked his way from the mailroom to composing room foreman during those years.

That’s more than 14,600 days ago.

Through those years he has seen amazing changes — from hot lead to cold type, ticker tape to no tape, typewriters to word processors.

When he began there were no computers, now it’s a world of computers.

He has been through such publishers as Bill Garner, Bruce Rudd and Darren Murphy (we have both worked here longer than Darren Murphy has been alive!) and remembers his fellow tradesmen when he started such as Ken Underhill, Bill McKelvey, Dan Cannon, Len Appleton, John Braine, Gerry Armstrong, Vince Donohue, John Wickert, Bob Noble.

TK jokes that his hair was jet black when he arrived and solid white today.

Working in a daily newspaper environment is like no other job.

No day is the same and none will ever be routine. While some people watch the clock hoping its hands move faster, we watch the clock begging for more time because our hands can’t move any faster. Congratulations to TK.

Those people that Ed lists, Terry’s “fellow tradesmen,” were almost all working in the composing room when I was there. I heard hundreds of stories from and about each of them over the short two years I worked at the paper. Their influence on my personal and professional life continues to this day.

As it happens, Terry retired last month after 47 years on the job; the Examiner had that story as well:

It was never dull. It was exciting. It was stressful at times, but you were never bored,” he said.

Back then, more than 100 men and women — journalists, ad salespeople, circulation staff, compositors and press operators — were responsible for putting out each daily edition. They used typewriters and hot wax and blades to cut and paste, literally, stories and advertisements, before computers revolutionized production in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond.

It’s hard to put into words just how much the the digital era changed everything, Keating said, calling computers the move that “changed the whole ballgame.” Each leap forward allowed the paper’s succesion of owners to put out the same paper with far fewer people.

It’s just incredible,” he said, pondering the technological evolution. “Where will it end up?”

Terry was a victim–or perhaps beneficiary?–of those technological changes. After spending most of his career in the composing room, he became a real estate account manager once production was consolidated elsewhere.