I t stands with an inviting yet almost intimidating presence, a once roaring but now muted link to The Observer’s past.
The Observer’s 52-year-old Goss Community offset press has not rolled since Jan. 28 when it was crippled by a motor breakdown during a production run. Still this once rollicking machine, long a favorite among people on Observer building tours, appears to have a faint pulse. Oily moist ink is everywhere on the press and copies of what it last printed on Jan. 28, a Home & Living section, are still on its conveyor belt, sharp, unyellowed and seemingly newsstand ready.
Nevertheless, the once cutting-edge, 60-foot industry-standard machine faces a future darker than the barrels of black ink beside it.
The press is now being disassembled and will soon be sent away to a yet to be determined metal-collection site.
“It will be scrapped. Nobody wants it,” said Mike Jensen, production manager of the East Oregonian in Pendleton, explaining that the press is too old to be of much value.
The East Oregonian has been printing The Observer since its offset press broke down. The Observer could not pay the $10,000 needed to replace the press’ motor due to bankruptcy proceedings involving Western Communications of Bend. Western Communications then owned The Observer, which was purchased by Eastern Oregon Media Group July 1.
The Observer has not able to repair its press since then because the EO Media Group did not buy the newspaper’s building when it assumed ownership. This means the newspaper will soon be moving to a smaller building that will not have room for a press. Western Communications, because of the terms of its bankruptcy, will be selling the 34-year-old building at 1406 Fifth Street, which has housed The Observer since early 1985.
The press’ history dates back to 1966 when it was purchased by The Observer, then based in a building at 1710 Sixth St.
The offset press replaced The Observer’s letter press. The offset press improved the newspaper’s ability to print fine designs and detailed photographs on fairly rough paper like newsprint. The reason is that rubber is used, giving the press the ability to adapt its printing surface to a rough paper surface, according to an article in the Dec. 9, 1966, Observer.
The story said The Observer’s quality had improved significantly since the addition of the offset press and that readers had taken note of it.
“Quite an improvement has been noted in the Observer the past few months,” the 1966 story stated.
The Goss offset press was used at The Observer’s building on Sixth Street for 18 years until it was moved in early 1985 to the newspaper’s present building.
The Observer’s Goss Community press is now being taken apart by Jay Magnuson, a retired Observer pressman. He began his career as a pressman in the 1980s at The Observer, where he learned his craft under Frank Everidge, who started at The Observer in 1978 and worked here until February when he was hired as a pressman for the East Oregonian.
After his start at The Observer, Magnuson worked as a pressman at the Bulletin in Bend and the Columbian in Vancouver, Washington, before returning to The Observer about five years ago, where he worked until the press broke down in January.
Magnuson said that it was critical to be careful when working on The Observer’s press when it was running since it could inflict serious injury.
“Its motors are very strong,” he said.
He recalled that once a pressman lost a fingernail during a production run at The Observer but fortunately there was nothing more serious.
He said that taking apart The Observer’s press is a sobering process.
“It was the first press I worked on. It helped give me my start,” Magnuson said.
Many at The Observer understand Magnuson’s sentimental reaction to the loss of the press that used to roar familiarly behind the scenes. While it has been quiet for months, its physical removal marks the end of an era, a bittersweet reminder of the changing world of the newspaper industry.
But the future is bright. The offset press the East Oregonian used to print The Observer in Pendleton is larger than The Observer’s now dismantled press and has the capability of printing many more color photos per edition, according to the East Oregonian’s Jensen. In fact, as of July 22, all editions of The Observer will be printed in full color.