A longtime friend falls silent
For as long as I’ve been in the newspaper publishing business, the majority of our products have been printed in Ahoskie.
Upon being hired part-time at the News-Herald during my sophomore year (1972-73) at what was then Chowan College, our newspaper press was housed at our office located at the corner of McGlohon and North Street, now the home of American Legion Post 102.
In the mid-70’s, a production-only facility was built at the east end of Main Street (the same building we are in today following a remodeling effort in the late 1980’s and again in 2004-05).
I couldn’t come close to guessing the total number of printed pages that have rolled through our 1974 model Goss Community press over my long career. A safe guess would be in the hundreds of millions.
We not only printed the products we owned, but for others as well. At one time, we handled all the printing for Food Lion (covering an area from Georgia to Maryland), Big Star Supermarkets, Belk-Tylers, Mutual Drug, and a wide array of other commercial printing customers.
I spent the first 15-or-so years of my newspaper career working in the production process. Now as the leader of the newsroom, my past experience in production gives me a better perspective of the importance of meeting deadlines. What we strive to avoid is having our production staff, who mainly work from late afternoon until around midnight, waiting for pre-press staff to complete their tasks.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that our press would one day fall silent. We have relied on that piece of machinery for nearly 50 years. It has hummed along during good weather and bad; on holidays and weekends….putting out a quality finished product into the hands of our many customers and doing that on time.
Despite its age, our press was extremely reliable, thanks to the outstanding efforts of our press crew. Those guys, mixing their printing and mechanical skills, kept our press running in top-notch condition.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.
A “perfect storm” of rising production costs – to include the possibility of tariffs imposed on the paper we use, which would drive costs up even higher – coupled with a shrinking commercial printing market led to the decision to close our printing operation.
The eye of that storm can be found in two places….our manually operated press and the equally manual process of placing the inserts inside each newspaper (still done by hand). That leads to higher production costs when compared to fully automated printing plants.
At around 10 p.m. this past Friday, the last News-Herald (Saturday’s edition) rolled off our press. It was a sad night for me, and for our press and mailroom crew – led by Dennis Allsbrook, Calvin Askew and Sarah Morris. Those two men and one woman have each poured their hearts and souls into the newspaper publishing business for 40 years or more. Their work speaks for itself.
The closure of our printing operation, while sad to the veterans here, is in no way a bad omen to come. The News-Herald and the Gates County Index remain viable in the communities they serve through news and advertising.
The production of that news and advertising remains centered in Ahoskie. Nothing changes in either department….the same folks you have grown to trust with news and ads are still here, doing their jobs like any other normal day.
Our readers and advertisers will not notice any changes. Our printed products will still be available, on time on their normal days. The only difference about what you’re holding in your hands at this moment is it was printed in Virginia Beach rather than Ahoskie.
Even though our press has fell silent, this newspaper will remain with a strong voice, covering the news and events occurring in Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton counties as well as handling the advertising needs of the businesses in our area.
Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at email@example.com or 252-332-7207.