Schurz papers testing USAT content

The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Ind., today launched six pages of USA Today content as part of a test to see if readers want the content.
Parent Schurz Communications said the USA Today Local Edition will be published through Saturday, and include national and international news and content from USAT’s Money and Life sections.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the section will replace The Herald-Times’ Nation/World section cover and pages that include content from wire services.
Next week, Schurz will roll out the section in the American News in Aberdeen, S.D.
Reader surveys will be conducted in both markets.


New owner keeps ‘letterpress’ alive at century-old Wisconsin print shop

The most ancient technology of the printing trade — raised metal or hardwood type that’s often set by hand — is back in vogue.

Letterpress, as it’s known, might be time-consuming and expensive, but enthusiasts say the retro result looks and feels unlike anything that the most expensive modern presses ever can duplicate.

And that’s what prompted Ashley Town, a 30-year-old Milwaukee art and design instructor, to leave her teaching job about a month ago and rescue a vintage printing company on the city’s south side that was about to shut its doors.

“It’s a love of ink and paper and typography,” said Town, standing with ink-stained fingers in her workshop at Bay View Printing Co. “I absolutely couldn’t let that tradition and that craft die.”

Town fell in love with the place a few years ago when she was commissioned to design posters and invitations for clients, and then took her designs to the shop to have them printed.

She felt drawn to the mechanical equipment, 17 well-maintained machines in all, some of them hand-fed and dating back a century. She felt drawn to the wooden cabinets with drawers of meticulously organized typefaces — 264 different sets of fonts, each with a complete alphabet.

That doesn’t even count the hot-lead type from the shop’s fully functional linotype machine, a noisy piece of equipment that looks like a cross between a manual typewriter and church organ and churns out one “line of type” at a time.

She even likes the unadorned building itself at 2702 S. Howell Ave. that began life in 1918 as a Pentecostal church and converted decades later into a two-story printing shop.

Last summer Town worked as an apprentice with Jim Baker, who by then had been running the place for 30 years.

“He taught me to use all the presses,” Town said.

But Baker, 75, was ready to retire, even though he had failed to find a new owner. The doors were about to close.

So Town worked out a deal with Baker, took out a small-business loan and left her job as assistant professor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. And little more than a month ago, Town became the fourth owner in the century-old history of Bay View Printing.

With the change of ownership, she willingly became custodian of a trade that technological advances suggest should have gone extinct decades ago.

Letterpress is little changed from the movable type championed 560 years ago in Germany when Johann Gutenberg retrofitted a wine press to print Bibles. And up through the early decades of the last century, letterpress in one version or another remained the industry standard for books, newspapers and magazines.

But over time, more efficient forms of printing like offset, rotogravure and lithography began to displace raised typefaces. After that came ever-newer versions of desktop publishing and digital printing, which now dominate the trade.

All of those other printing methods lay a layer of ink or toner onto the page. But handset type is distinctive, Town and others say. Letterpress plates exert pressure on the paper, actually punching a slight but discernible impression into the page along with the ink. And that’s what excites so many modern designers, artists, poets and typography enthusiasts.

Each piece, Town said, “is completely original, completely unique, can never be duplicated.”

“There is no way to duplicate the luxurious look of letterpress,” blogged the owner of a letterpress shop in Massachusetts.

Entering Town’s two stories of workshops in the converted church is like walking backward in time. The rooms are filled with equipment that other printing companies might have scrapped years ago, with the metal more valuable these days than the machinery.

There are six offset presses, although they are slow-moving toys compared with the massive high-volume offset presses that churn out contemporary publications. There are nine more letterpress presses, including three “platen presses” that operate by hand or foot pedal.

There are composing tables where a printer painstakingly locks up the layout with type, spacing bars, keys and clamps. And finally, there’s a paper-folding machine and the venerable linotype machine.

Contacted by email, Baker sketched out the history of the shop, although he points out that the earliest documents have been lost in the mist of time. Early in the last century, a man named Andy Campbell founded the shop in rented space in a savings and loan building a few blocks away. He printed a small-circulation newspaper.

The next owner, Joe Tondryk, acquired the shop after World War II. He moved the equipment into the then-vacant and deconsecrated church in the 1950s, after the S&L needed the space back.

In an instance of history repeating itself, Baker worked for Tondryk long enough to learn the equipment before Baker acquired the shop — just as Town apprenticed for Baker before she took over 30 years later.

As for Town, she has been owner for only one month and doesn’t yet have a clear picture of the shop’s financial performance.

“But what I do know is that there’s a lot of interest,” said Town, basing her assessment on the letterpress classes and workshops she’s held in recent weeks. She expects 70% to 80% of her business from letterpress work — posters, business cards, letterhead, fliers, advertising, wedding invitations, greeting cards.

Nationally, hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of annual printing business is generated by letterpress in all its variations, from low-volume handset type to mechanized presses with higher volumes, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by the National Association for Printing Leadership, a printing industry trade association.

Andrew Paparozzi, a senior vice president and chief economist at the association, said he was surprised by the size of the letterpress sector — something he didn’t bother to investigate until he was contacted for this article.

“I had no idea that much work was still being done by letterpress and the variety of work done in letterpress,” Paparozzi said.

“It’s not dead and it has a place in the industry,” although it’s still only a fraction of the $80 billion U.S. printing industry. “I do not think letterpress is a threat to digital,” he joked.

Bay View Printing already has the character of an art studio, and Town wants to take that a step further. She recently launched an online crowdsourcing fundraising campaign, earmarking the proceeds to create a community arts center.

“I’m raising funds to be able to transform this Bay View institution into a creative hub for artists, designers, writers and enthusiasts of letterpress printing,” she said.

The office space, once the church’s front entry area, will become a gallery.

The appeal of analog letterpress is at least partly a reaction to life in a computerized world, Town and others say.

“I learned typography on a computer, I learned everything on a computer,” said Town, who holds a four-year degree in design from MIAD and earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“And having come from a background where I worked digitally, it was pretty incredible to have that tactile relationship with the type itself.”


Direct-on-Press Azura TE Plates from Agfa Graphics Are Launched for Commercial Sheetfed Applications

Agfa Graphics has announced the worldwide availability of its new chemistry-free direct-on-press Azura TE plate.

With a direct-on-press workflow, time to press is considerably shorter and waste is drastically reduced. As the Azura TE plates are cleaned out on-press, the system requires no processor, no chemistry and no water. This entails lower energy consumption and less maintenance, thus resulting in environment-friendly operations as well as cost reductions.

Azura TE, however, does not sacrifice on image quality and pressroom working conditions. Mounted on the press, Azura TE behaves very similarly to a traditionally processed or chemistry-free plate, limiting the variables in press room operations. The plates clean out rapidly and ink acceptance is immediate, both resulting in sellable sheets after only a few copies.

“In fact a ‘direct-on-press’ plate is ready for use after exposing on the platesetter,” said Guy Desmet, head of prepress marketing at Agfa Graphics. “On top, Azura TE shows an outstanding image contrast thanks to our patented Thermochromic Dye technology. That makes visual inspection easy and means that dot measurements or plate detection can be done with standard devices. In addition, Azura TE has an excellent daylight stability, which comes in handy if the plates cannot be mounted on the press immediately.”

Characteristic of Agfa Graphics’ Azura chemistry-free and direct-on-press plates is the excellent lithographic behavior on press, supporting up to 240 lines/in. with Sublima screening. They also stand out thanks to their printing stability resulting from the elimination of the many variables inherent to a conventionally processed plated.

Guy Desmet added, “A one year field test period all over the globe taught us that Azura TE is compatible with all Agfa and non-Agfa platesetters, a wide range of founts, inks and press architectures. Customers love the ease of use of Azura TE, the gain in system productivity and the quality on press.”

Since its launch in 2004, Agfa Graphics’ ThermoFuse technology has proved itself as the leading technology in sustainable platemaking. Azura TE is based on the same ThermoFuse technology as its predecessors, working with a single-layer water-based coating, containing ink-accepting latex pearls, small enough to deliver razor-sharp highlight reproduction.