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Oxford Eagle printing press changes with the times

Sometimes, in movies about newspapers, an anxiety-ridden editor will run into a room with massive mechanical machines and shout to the crew “Stop the presses!”

That happened at The Oxford Eagle Sept. 11, 2001.

We were printing, and (9-11) happened on the news,” said Edward Lance, head pressman at The Oxford Eagle. “We threw away 3,000 papers, and changed the front page.”

Lance, who has been in the printing industry for 40 years, has worked 23 years at The Oxford Eagle, manning the paper’s printing press in an industry that has rapidly changed over the last few years.

It’s changed from doing lead printing and letter press, up to now we do course off-set,” said Lance,who has a degree in computer science from Delta State University where he studied to be a computer analyst.

He began his career managing retail stores, but grew tired of moving around. A friend offered him a job in the printing business, and he’s been doing it since then in different forms.

When Lance first began his career as a printer specializing in business cards and letterhead, he did printing the old fashioned way.

There was a drawer, and it was set like typewriters have their type keys,” he said, explaining the process. “You can memorize it and grab your letters really quickly. There are little pieces of lead. Cubes. Picas. Half-picas. Points. And you can separate your words. That’s how you get your words a distance apart . . If you misspell one of those, you have to reset the whole machine and re-cut it.”

Now, computers save a lot of time. The paper moves through it from the reporters, editors and designers to Lance.

They make the pages,” he said. “They send them over to my computer.”

A “negative” of the pages is sent into a processor.

I burn it to an aluminum, iodized plate,” he said. “You burn the plate. It only prints where you burned it. I put that on the press. The water washes off the ink where it’s supposed to be. Where it’s supposed to be, it stays on.”

The Oxford Eagle printing press is one of those things you’ll find Only in Oxford.

Lance said 700 lbs. rolls of paper are used.

After getting everything set up, it takes about 45 minutes to print 6,000 papers every day.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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