The awesome Bruce Arthur tweeted out a link tonight to a project done by the Austin American Statesman about their printing press and the people who run it as the paper moves its printing to a new location.
On one hand, I think stories like this are kind of dangerous because they rhapsodize print to an unhealthy degree - which leads to slower acceptance of the digital age because it doesn't smell like ink, dammit! They inadvertently promote the ideal that only print is "real journalism," and that mindset has led to 20 years of slow digital innovation and recognition that the journalism world is changing. On the other hand, the one where I don't think too much about it, this is a really cool, really well-done story.
It also reminded me of my biggest missed opportunity as a journalist. The kind of opportunity every kid dreams about.
I had the chance to yell "STOP THE PRESSES!" and actually mean it.
And I didn't.
Picture it: Olean, N.Y., 1999. I was fresh out of college and fresh on my beat as the St. Bonaventure men's basketball beat writer. We were publishing our preseason basketball preview tab, which I helped edit, design and write. The cover featured a close-up color photo of Tim Winn, the Bonnies' then-senior point guard. After putting the issue to bed, I hung around the press room (which was about 10 yards from the newsroom) to see the first editions of my first tab come off the line. Back then, we'd see the first few editions as they came off and do a quick scan to see if there were any big mistakes we had to fix.
The presses started running. The edition came off the line.
That gorgeous color photo of Tim Winn on the cover? Black and white.
Something had gone haywire in the process. I told the press-room operator that the photo was supposed to be color and ran back to the newsroom. I don't remember what the issue was, but it was an easy fix. Soon, the presses were running, the photo was color and all was well.
And I sat back down in the sports department ... and realized it.
I could have yelled "STOP THE PRESSES!"
Not in a funny, ironic, pretending I'm in a movie way. In a legit, we-need-to-actually-stop-the-presses so "STOP THE PRESSES!" moment.
And I didn't. The moments from realization to correction were such a blur, I didn't see the opportunity in front of me.
Opportunity lost. Forever.
I deflated. I yelled a curse word or two. I emailed my friends Greg and Jared, both journalism classmates, despondent. They wrote back, as true friends would, pointing out that I had failed and that they didn't even know who I was anymore.
I told this story on Twitter last night. Arthur responded:
I do, Bruce. I do.