Printing paradise

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Printer Steve Weipert places a piece of film containing four pages of the newspaper onto a printing plate so that the words and images can be burned onto the plate. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Sharon Tesar places the plate so it can be burned.

Tesar and Weipert place the plates in the press, between the blankets, which are squeezed to print the words and images on the paper.

Weipert adjusts one of the 24 keys that controls color. “From red, yellow and blue, you can print every color in the world,” Weipert said.

Weipert, standing near the folder, makes an adjustment to the press as papers are printed.

Tesar and Denny Riebe handle the newspapers as they come out of the folder, which slits the paper in half before sending it around a cylinder that cuts it into a 22-inch sheet of paper. “It goes through a folding process and it comes out just as you get it at home,” Weipert explained.

Weipert and Riebe change a roll of paper. Each roll of paper weighs 1,000 pounds and is 34 inches wide. One roll could yield 17,000 eight-page papers, which is the standard size of the NIT.

Although the press is referenced as a singular entity, it’s actually a series of six printing presses, with some printing black ink, while the others print red, yellow and blue.

Although the press is referenced as a singular entity, it’s actually a series of six printing presses, with some printing black ink, while the others print red, yellow and blue.

Although the press is referenced as a singular entity, it’s actually a series of six printing presses, with some printing black ink, while the others print red, yellow and blue.

Over the years, Weipert has learned the intricacies of the press. As the papers come out of the folder, he grabs one, checking to see where adjustments need to be made. After making the tweak, he returns to the fresh papers, selecting a new one to start the process over again. This continues on throughout the printing process.

Weipert and Riebe change a roll of paper. Each roll of paper weighs 1,000 pounds and is 34 inches wide. One roll could yield 17,000 eight-page papers, which is the standard size of the NIT.

Weipert explains the newspaper’s printing process

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Editors and reporters are often the faces of a community newspaper. They’re who readers see at events and meetings, and it’s their names in the article bylines. However, after the journalist’s furiously-written interview notes come to life as a story on the computer screen, it’s up to the printer and his press to make sure those stories are conveyed to readers. For the North Iowa Times, as well as its sister papers, the Courier Press and The Guttenberg Press (the Clayton County Register is printed in Calmar), that printer is Steve Weipert.

A McGregor native and current Marquette resident, Weipert got his start in printing after high school, when he worked at Northern Engraving in Lansing, making woodgrain dashes along with appliance dials from sheets of metal. A few years later, he moved on to printing on paper after taking a job at Mississippi Valley Printers in Guttenberg, which, over the years, has printed many local papers.

Weipert said the change wasn’t too drastic for him. “Printing is printing,” he explained. He just had to get used to working with rolls of paper rather than sheets of metal.

“That roll of paper never quits running,” he said. “It’s a continuous feed.”

Weipert has been at the helm of his Goss Community press for 39 and a half years. In the last decade, the press moved to the Courier Press location in Prairie du Chien, where each week, with the help of Sharon Tesar and Denny Riebe, Weipert prints one issue of the North Iowa Times, two of the Courier Press and one of The Guttenberg Press, as well as the occasional special section.

Each printing job begins once the editor finishes layout, as the pages are sent to a computer which then sends them to a film processor. Four newspaper pages are printed on each piece of film, beginning with the first two and the back two. If you open up your copy of the NIT, you’ll see they are on the same piece of paper. From there, the film is burned onto a printing plate.
A water system then puts water on the plate. Ink is an oil, so it doesn’t mix with water.

“That’s how we keep the plate from turning completely black,” Weipert explained.

The plate prints then goes on a cylinder with a rubber blanket on each side. When the press begins printing, those blankets are squeezed, and the words and images print onto the paper.
Next, that paper goes into a folder that slits it in half before sending it around a cylinder that cuts it into a 22-inch sheet of paper.

“It goes through a folding process and it comes out just as you get it at home,” Weipert explained.

Although the press is referenced as a singular entity, it’s actually a series of six printing presses, with some printing black ink, while the others print red, yellow and blue.

“From red, yellow and blue, you can print every color in the world,” Weipert said.

While the computer tells the press how light or heavy each color should be, Weipert can also adjust the color from the press. He said 24 keys can be turned down or up to get the desired effect.

Over the years, Weipert has learned the intricacies of the press. As the papers come out of the folder, he grabs one, checking to see where adjustments need to be made. After making the tweak, he returns to the fresh papers, selecting a new one to start the process over again. This continues on throughout the printing process.

Weipert estimated 500 pounds of ink are used each week, as well as three rolls of paper. Each roll of paper weighs 1,000 pounds and is 34 inches wide. One roll could yield 17,000 eight-page papers, which is the standard size of the NIT.

He said the oddest request he’s gotten over the years was, while still in Guttenberg, an advertiser wanted to make an ad smell like perfume. Weipert honored the request, which wouldn’t even be considered today.

“We added the fragrance to the water, and every paper smelled like that for two weeks,” he said.

When asked what some of the toughest parts of the job are, Weipert said “cleaning black ink off yourself” was high on the list. You won’t see him around the press without his customary black shirt and jeans.

Making deadlines is also difficult, he added.

“If something were to break, you still have to find a way to get the paper out. You have to be on time to the post office,” he said. “In almost 40 years, we’ve never missed a paper. Sometimes we’ve had to throw the papers onto the mail truck as it was going by. And that’s the truth.”

As he’s seen local papers bought up by bigger corporations over the years, Weipert said he’s most enjoyed working at a smaller, family company, referencing the newspapers’ connection to the Howe family.

“I enjoy working with the people,” he said, adding, with a smirk, his trademark line, “Every day working here has been a day in paradise.”

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