The News says ‘bye’ to longtime press supervisor

Corryn Brock, Editor-in-Chief


The Daily Eastern News has printed a daily publication with its own press since 1976 with three men leading a majority of the press runs: Mark Turk, Johnny Bough and Tom Roberts.

Turk ran the press from 1979 to 1982, Bough from 1982 to 2004 and Roberts since 2004.

With today’s edition of The News, the tradition of the daily print publication is ending with Roberts running the press for the last time.

Tom Roberts, the press supervisor, uses a scrubbing pad to develop the image on the illuminive printing plate. It is then put on the press so the image can be transferred onto the paper.

Roberts, an Eastern journalism graduate and former staff member of The News, returned to Eastern after working as a freelance photographer in an attempt to settle into something where he could spend more time with his family.

Roberts grew up in the world of journalism. His father, Jim Roberts, an Eastern alum and The News’ longest running Editor-in-Chief, later owned a chain of weekly newspapers.

Roberts said growing up around printing presses helped his transition into taking over as The News’ press supervisor.

After over 15 years running the press, Roberts said the position suits him.

“The kids are fun to work with and had a lot of really good students on the press through the years,” Roberts said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”

At the end of his career, Roberts said the time was right for the end of the daily print publication.

Tom Roberts, the press supervisor, stirs the ink in the ink fountains.

“It’s really just the changing of technology. I mean this is the end of the line for most print products, just because of smartphone technology, social media platforms, instant gratification mentality and I’m nearing the end of my service lives,” Roberts said. “It all worked out together.”

Roberts said the end of many print news products brings mixed emotions.

“I understand that you can’t hold back progress in technology, but I think the quality of the news has suffered from the lack of qualified editorial oversight. The great thing about newspapers and news magazines was both the number of editors and copy editors that a story idea had to pass through before it was ever seen,” Roberts said. “The current environment allows everyone and anyone who thought they had an idea to put their idea out there, and, while everyone might have an opinion, not every opinion is worth sharing. I think the real danger is that a significant amount of social media platforms have really just become propaganda devices. I think that has really accentuated the polarization of our culture right now. And so from that perspective I see the current situation is a step back and really a dangerous step back for civilization.”

Tom Roberts, the press supervisor, removes an old printing plate from the printing unit from the previous night’s run.

The press has always been a major part of the learning process at Eastern.

“I think it has provided them a lot of freedoms that maybe other programs didn’t have the luxury of in that when you have your own press, you can slip deadline by a few hours and it’s not the end of the world,” Roberts said. “If you don’t have your own press, you run the risk of not getting your paper published. So, I think it has been important for journalism students to have a tangible relationship and see how their product actually is produced, and to see it come off the press line.”

Overall, Roberts said the near-50-year history of printing a daily edition of The News on-site was “a good run.”

“Technology marches on, you can’t stop that,” he said. “You know, we don’t ride in steam locomotives anymore. Pretty soon we won’t be driving internal combustion engine cars anymore. It’ll, in a reasonably short period of time, be all electrical vehicles. It’s just the natural progression. It was fun while it lasted.”

This is the conveyor belt from the folding unit which conveys the cut and folds into the newspaper that comes off the printing press line.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].