The Daily Egyptian at SIU Rolls Off Its Own Press One Last Time
The Daily Egyptian will no longer be published through its own on-campus printing press. A changing financial landscape has forced the Southern Illinois University Carbondale student newspaper to outsource its printing — ending a 47-year in-house print operation that was a rarity among student media nationwide.
As the paper’s editor-in-chief Sarah Gardner shares, “Being one of only a handful of college media organizations with a printing press has been a source of pride for the DE, the School of Journalism and the university itself. … When the DE asked for a student fee last year, and a group of professionals pooled their experience and expertise, one recommendation made was to outsource printing. In an effort to be conscious of our financial situation, we had no choice but to consider it. … We will not let it affect our coverage or quality. But we will not take the experience of printing in-house for the last time for granted.”
The paper’s last run on its own press concluded after 1 a.m. today. The DE team memorialized it in a compelling video. They also devoted a huge chunk of today’s front page to the half dozen staffers who operated the printshop.
A portion of the poignant page one tribute — run beneath a photo of the press crew:
“It is not the metal. Nor the ink, nor paper. Those are not what we lose. For those inanimate objects only act as containers for what we truly lose. Within those objects is the spirit of the Daily Egyptian. We lose tradition, passion and the people who worked each day on that machine.”
— Tyler Davis (@TDavis_DE) January 29, 2015
In a quick Q&A conducted only hours before the last in-house run, Daily Egyptian faculty managing editor Eric Fidler was kind enough to share a few thoughts on the printshop’s history and the paper’s future without it.
What’s going to be the suckiest part of no longer having your own press?
I suspect the worst part of no longer having our own press will be the fact that what gets sent will always be what goes into the paper. It’s not uncommon for someone — including press workers — to catch a mistake in the first-offs. If the error is significant enough, they stop, the newsroom fixes it and resends the spread.
How will it change things for the paper?
Deadline, for now, is likely to be an hour earlier. It shouldn’t have too much effect, because we are trying to post stories online as quickly as possible throughout the day. We’ll use our current emergency/backup printer for now, and accept bids for the longer term as soon as we can, so this could change.
Circulation also won’t be too different for now. We project savings of at least $50,000 a year, which is huge for us.
Losing it means losing half a dozen student jobs. Our pressroom superintendent is moving to printing and duplicating [a separate SIU operation], which approached us about doing this. They knew this was a long-term goal for us, obviously. (As a side note, printing & duplicating can’t print the DE because of the type of press it has.)
“I’m a little nostalgic about it because I’ve been in the news business many years, but I’m more concerned with how we take the Daily Egyptian into the future. Even though the print product still pays the bills, I’ve been trying to change people’s perceptions of what we are and what we do for a long time. Losing the press might actually help with that.”
What role has the press played in the DE’s larger identity?
We like having our own press. For some reason, it’s a selling point when prospective students take tours. Students like to boast about having our own press. It’s a point of pride. It’s definitely been a part of the DE identity. It’s nice for the staff to see the immediate consequences of blowing deadline.
But we’ve already switched from publishing five days a week to four, and I suspect we’ll drop at least another day before too long. So it doesn’t make sense to have a press and a full-time staff member to run it.
Further, this building is supposed to be gut-rehabbed the next time the state passes a capital budget. We’re planning a modern building with a converged newsroom. There’s not going to be a place for a press from 1972. Speaking of 1972, our press is held together with baling wire and Juicy Fruit gum. It’s a miracle that our crew has kept it running.
I’m a little nostalgic about it because I’ve been in the news business many years, but I’m more concerned with how we take the Daily Egyptian into the future. Even though the print product still pays the bills, I’ve been trying to change people’s perceptions of what we are and what we do for a long time. Losing the press might actually help with that.