“Born at the wrong time,” my friends and I say when we bitterly nurse our defeat. Not constantly, of course, just when bitten by an occasional sting of nostalgia, that classically Greek ache to return home.
The old press of the Statesman Journal has gone dark. For the first time in 161 years, a daily newspaper is no longer printed in Salem, Oregon, and for us softhearted journalists this is an absolute crime. We ink-stained wretches are now just wretches.
Even newspapers are not newspapers anymore; they consist of ancient, day-old content, they are legacy loss leaders for their loosely attached online information centers. The Statesman Journal is now printed by the Oregonian’s press in Portland, fifty miles to the north, and even that legendary paper is now looking to pull the plug on a printed product. The money’s not in it.
In 2012, I spent one of the last nightly runs with the pressmen, my Hasselblad, and ten rolls of old film. I spoke with Rick Shrecengost, sixty-two, a twenty-eight-year veteran of the press, while he pushed rolls of newsprint paper that weighed as much as an F-150.
“I'm only a year or two short of retirement, so I'll be fine,” he said. “I've been a blue collar guy my whole life. My body's all used up, but I'll find a way.”
No one hires a sixty-two-year-old newspaper pressman. The three-story machine in these photographs was cannibalized for other uses, and the rest sold for scrap. But some of us will always remember the loud thump when the press began its nightly run, the way the whole building shook as it came to life and transformed paper and ink and people’s lives into a world we could share with you.