A Colorado newspaper that's also a time machine

Even as modern-day technology keeps transforming the news business, one hearty journalist has embraced an old way of doing things that is just his type. Barry Petersen reports:

It is Tuesday in the tiny Colorado town of Saguache, and there is a kind of ballet going on . . . a ballet of man and machine.

Publisher Dean Coombs is feeding paper into a press, which methodically grabs it, rolls it across lines of type, lifts it, and turns it into the Saguache Crescent.

The press itself dates to about 1915 -- about as long as the Coombs family has been publishing the Crescent, every week, since 1917.  The same intricate choreography -- perfected and passed on, one generation to the next.

"They hooked my baby carriage to the back of that press," Coombs said. "The carriage would go back and forth," rocking him to sleep.

The newsroom is a virtual time machine, taking you back a century to a time when every big city daily used linotype machines to set copy, that massive presses turned into thousands of newspapers.

Now, computers do that work -- with one exception.

"I don't actually think there might even be another newspaper in the world" using linotype, Coombs said. "There are none on the United States."

When Petersen asked what was required to change fonts, Coombs explained:  "Well, we have to pull these two handles down, which turn into a ramp for it to come off."

"So on my computer, I click and it changes the fonts," said Petersen. "You have to pull this 60-pound thing off and put a new one in?"

"Right."

"It's a lot easier on a computer."

"It's somewhat easier, uh-huh," Coombs said. "As long as your computer's working."

saguache-crescent-paper.jpg
CBS News

This linotype machine is a monster with 28,000 parts. Typing on the keyboard creates a line of type set in lead slug, and slugs become the columns of a newspaper.

Dean has bought other linotype machines, and stockpiles thousands of spare parts . . . and he knows where every part goes. He has no other choice. If the linotype machine breaks he's the repairman.

 

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