BENNINGTON -- Former Banner editor Tyler Resch recently had developed and put on compact disc a relic of the Banner's history: A video of the Banner production process from 1975.
"It had been sitting in my dresser drawer for all these years, and I figured it was indecipherable. It was archaic tape," Resch said, noting that it was on a 16-millimeter roll of film. "All these years, I finally decided to do something about it."
He had to inquire around before a firm in Cambridge, Mass., directed him to another in Philadelphia which does outmoded videotape transcribing.
The part of the video that was filmed at the Banner is just short of 18 minutes long. Resch remembers it being filmed, but does not remember the name of the young woman from Bennington College who interviewed various Banner staff members on how the paper was produced. He does remember, however, that it was a Bennington faculty member named Tony Carruthers who was behind the project: "Video was brand new and he was just experimenting with it," Resch said.
Also on the tape, Carruthers filmed Irving Adler reading a story to some children, including Resch's two young daughters. Resch conjectured that the fact his daughters are on it is why he held on to the videotape all these years. "I don't remember why I kept it, but there it was," he said.
At the time of the video, the Banner had its press on site and had many more employees than it does now. "It's incredible how much of a payroll they had to sustain," Resch said.
(The paper is now printed at the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Banner's press was removed years ago).
Back in 1975, "The page was physically put together with pieces of paper with holes left for the pictures, and then when the page was ready it was photographed, so you end up with a big page negative," Resch said. "From the negative you make a press plate, which was a thin aluminum press plate."
By today's standards, the quality of this black and white video is quite poor. One cannot see very far beyond those people talking in the foreground, and it's hard to get a sense of the various rooms where people work. The audio portions, however, are clearer, with skips here and there.
At the start of the video one hears the insistent clicking one associates with old-time newsrooms. "Here we are at the Bennington Banner, and we're going to be following a story from the moment it hits the desk of the reporter until it gets into the final form of the newspaper you buy," the student says.
She interviews then-County Reporter Russell Garland, who is finishing a story about the Manchester School Board reducing its budget due to public pressure. He sends the typed copy of the story out with a headline and a "dummy" showing where it is to be put on the page.
Garland is working under a noon deadline, and the student notes that it is now 11 a.m. The Banner was an afternoon paper at that time.
Next we meet the typist who types the story, each letter perforating a tape. Then the tape was fed into a computer. Next we meet the computer operator, who feeds the typist's tape into the computer. The computer properly formats the copy, which then comes out of a developing machine.
When the student interviewer asks, "How does the machine know when to hyphenate words?" The computer operator laughs a little and replies, "It has a brain of its own."
Next it's on to the headline machine operator, who has just completed the headline for Garland's story. The headlines also come out of the developing machine. From there we meet two proofreaders, who read every word in the paper, including the advertisements. They also read the legal ads out loud to each other.
In the composing room, staff members produce the page by waxing the copy and pasting it down on the page. The composing room foreman is apparently laying Garland's story out on the page. It will be on page 6 of that day's Banner.
The student interviews Resch in the photo room, where the county page is being processed.
"The whole thing is a photographic process here, so every page and every picture has to go through the camera," Resch said.
The county news page has no photographs, but when photos are on a page, they first had to be screened. Pages with photographs will have a "window hole" that shows up as a clear space on the negative, "and the screened picture is stripped on in the stripping room which is the next room here, the next step in the process," he said.
We next move on to see a man at a large machine at which the page negative and an 8,000-watt light are used in the process to create a thin aluminum press plate.
The last several minutes of the video show printed copies of the Banner coming off the press.
Interviewed earlier this year, Resch said the photos had to be screened because the Banner had an offset press.
"The Banner was actually a pioneer in newspaper offset printing," he said. "I think it was 1964, the Millers bought a brand new Goss Suburban offset press. And the photographic reproduction was just marvelous."
(The Miller family owned both the Berkshire Eagle and the Banner until they had to sell them for financial reasons in the 1990s.)
The press paid dividends. While the typical newspaper page had 85 dots per inch in photographs, "We were able to get up to 125 dots per inch, which made a lot more subtle shading," Resch said. "The quality of reproduction was just great."
The paper won a couple of national awards because of this capacity. "I'm sure the Banner was the first daily paper in New England to have an offset press," he said.
In discussing changes in the printing process over the years, Resch thought back to his grandfather, who was the publisher of a weekly paper in Sycamore, Ill., called The True Republican.
"God, do I remember that place. We had three linotype machines, with all these noises and clattering and the clicking," he said, "and things revolving and whirring and the plunger of the lead. It was quite a memorable thing."
Later, when Resch was in journalism school, "I took a course in technography in which we literally handled metal type, and set it up, and took a proof of it. So I've been through every phase of the printing process," Resch said. "And now I'm editing Walloomsac Review, and it's all done by email. It's so much easier."
Contact Mark Rondeau at email@example.com. On Twitter @banner_religion.