November 2, 1948 – The Daily Iowan newsroom, alive with reporters, editors and designers awaits the outcome of the presidential. Would they hear it first from the unstable Associated Press (AP) wire machine or the real-time radio reports transmitting over a near constant flow of static?
Thomas E. Dewey? Harry S. Truman? Who will win the election?
The print shop foreman yells through the phone at an undecided Editor-in-Chief, Gail Myers (M.A., 1949), for the front page banner and copy, threatening to run the UI daily newspaper, The Daily Iowan, without either. Myers keeps pushing the deadline further. When he can hold it no longer, Myers decides to run an inconclusive 72-point front page banner announcing Truman was leading and the paper goes to press.
November 2, 2008 - Sixty years later Editor-in-Chief Emileigh Barnes (senior, Oxford, Miss.) sits calmly at her computer, sending Adobe PDF files as pages are finalized. Barnes and staff were notified of the Barack Obama victory before 11 p.m., according to Barnes, making the go to press by the midnight deadline like any other night on the job.
In the 60 years between these two elections, the technology used in newsrooms has gone through a number of changes making the environment vastly different.
When Myers sent his paper to press, it was to be printed by a 1923 Duplex Model E flatbed.
“The press was brand new in 1923 and boasted a speed of 6,000 papers an hour; in 1948 it operated considerably slower,” Myers said.
Since then, the DI has changed printing companies along with delivery methods. A time many college students hardly remember - before e-mail - DI truck drivers drove mechanicals (draw ups of the pages) to Cedar Rapids Gazette’s press, which they still use to print the daily newspaper today.
After the dawn of computer systems, the DI has gone through around seven to nine different systems, according to Bill Casey, DI publisher, including a two-computer system using type tape and a front-end computer system which could easily house the amount of space six systems take up today.
“You [students] take computers to be pretty solid these days,” Casey said. “Well, these weren’t.”
Now the newsroom is complete with all Macintosh computers and up-to-date software such as NewsEdit to compose stories and QuarkXPress to lie out pages.
Printing has also benefited from improved technology. “It’s easier than ever now,” Casey said.
Back in the days of mechanicals, a number of steps were involved in the printing process. After the pages were drawn up, they were driven to the press, and then turned into negatives on light sensitive paper, creating something similar to a photographic negative. Then they printed the negative on the page using flashes of light to expose the film, generating a positive print (the final page).
Even without the need for all these steps, deadlines have not changed much, according to Casey. The only difference is they now have the ability to push them a little further back.
Why is it that with so much new technology, newsrooms like the DI are still pushing deadlines? Casey said with all the possibilities new technology offers, newspaper staff members make things more time consuming by utilizing every technological advantage available to them.
“They used to spend hours in the dark room, now they spend hours going through 500 [digital] pictures,” Casey said.
During the years of type tape there were no design options, according to Casey. He said what the DI is doing now, thanks to new technology, is amazing.
While technology has aided in making the newsroom what it is today, Myers believes it still comes down to the people involved.
“Professional spirit and talent of the people involved is still the key to effective media and communication,” Myers said.
Two editors, separated by 60 years and an immense amount of technology changes, hold similar emotions toward co-workers.
Barnes said working with co-workers was one of the great parts of being the editor-in-chief. When she worked as a writer, there was more seclusion.
Myers was quoted in the Spectator saying his years working at the DI were some of the “most exciting times [he’s] ever had” and mentioned the people he worked alongside as great influences on his life.
Since working for the DI, Gail Myers has lived a life full of media and education. After leaving Iowa, he became the technical editor/director of publications at the Colorado School of Mines.
He earned his Ph.D. in communication methodology from the University of Denver. Myers held a number of teaching and administrative positions, including vice president and president of Monticello College and founding president of Lewis and Clark Community College. He also held a variety of positions at Trinity University in San Antonio, Temple University in Philadelphia and the San Antonio Art Institute.
Barnes started at the DI as a Metro reporter then became a Metro editor leading her to the editor-in-chief position where she makes sure everything runs smoothly in the newsroom. In doing so she dabbles in a little bit of everything, whether it be designing a page or fixing the printer when needed.
Before her editor-in-chief position she held numerous internships where she wrote for various beats, designed pages, worked with web teams and completed other general assignment writing. The publications where she accomplished these tasks were The Oxford Eagle, The Novato Advance, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and The Bakersfield Californian.
After graduation she plans to get her M.F.A. in poetry, but she doesn’t want to leave journalism behind forever.
“I definitely want to go back to journalism,” Barnes said. “Ideally, I’d like to go into long form journalism.”