Lisa Craft: Stop the presses!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

A lot of you have heard the phrase “Stop the presses!” or have seen it on TV and maybe thought it was fictional.

It is a phrase that has lived for many generations, but it is far from fictional. This phrase is a definition of control in the newspaper business.

Let me explain, and I hope everyone reads this to hopefully understand our position a bit clearer.

For many years, a newspaper press lived in The Monett Times building. We had what we called the prepress department, where each individual page was prepared and shot by a very large camera and negatives were created. The negatives were then burned into a metal plate, and that metal plate was placed on the press.


Now, I never worked in either department so I am sure I am missing a step or two, but I did watch them work a lot.

Once the plates were attached to the press, (here is where I really lack knowledge) we had huge rolls of paper, barrels of ink — black, magenta, cyan and yellow — made sure everything was lined up just right and started the press very, very slowly.

Sometimes, the paper would break, and when that happened, you might hear a few choice words from the pressman. There are quite a few other things that can go wrong, like something not being lined up correctly or not enough ink, etc. But, once it is all good to go, you start running the press.

Once the press starts running, that is when the newsroom personnel would jump up from their desk and run to the pressroom. They would grab a paper and look it over quickly, page by page, then all of a sudden, over the roar of the press motor you would hear the yell of the reporter, “STOP THE PRESS!” By that time, maybe 300 papers had been printed or more, but you can be sure no one was happy.

When it would get to this point, it would mean that there was a mistake on a page that would have to be changed in the newsroom, changed in prepress and the operator would have to completely start over again.

The key here is we had control. If a picture was not quite right, we could try to fix it. Now, we did not always catch every mistake, but it gave us a better chance when it was at our fingertips.

The reason I am going into so much detail is I don’t believe that everyone knows that we don’t have a press at our fingertips anymore. Perhaps if they knew, complaints about quality not being what it should be would be less common.

There was one time where a picture ran on the front page of The Monett Times that was terribly blurry, and there were comments about it. I reran the picture, and it was much better the second time. Unfortunately, with our presses offsite and no way for us to hold a paper in our hands or have the ability to stop the presses, that is all I can do when something like that happens — rerun the picture or the story.

So, count this column as an education piece for those that did not know that we no longer had a press. We have not had one for quite some time.

If a mistake happens, if a picture is not quite right, and the mistake is ours to correct, we will do it, but it will have to wait until the next edition, or perhaps even the edition following depending on the space available.

Gone are the days where we can run from our desk and yell “Stop the press!” and make the changes on point as much as I wish we could still do so!

Lisa Craft is the General Manager of The Monett Times. She may be reached at 417-235-3135 or at community@monett-times.com.