I can't believe it took me seven years of working at the Naples Daily News to go in and talk to the pressmen and watch them in action. Great guys. September 8th, they will abandon the old press at our Central Avenue location and start working on a state-of-the-art press in our new building in North Naples. We are a newspaper that is very lucky to still be investing in our print product, as well as our online product. Please go HERE to watch a video produced by me and videographer Manuel Martinez about the old press.
They are equal parts artist, scientist and engineer.
They receive no glory, little recognition and they have no byline.
Pressmen are sometimes the forgotten but without them there would be no newspaper.
“We’ve never not printed a paper since I’ve been here,” Casey Cote said confidently. “We’ve come close.”
Cote, a 29-year veteran and pressroom manager at the Naples Daily News, got his start at the Daily News when he was 20. He was working on a community press in northern New York when his mom handed him a classified ad that said “Live and work on the sunny Gulf of Mexico.”
Over the years, he and his crew of press operators have prided themselves on their teamwork and being able to set up or fix the press quickly. Cote has sometimes had to sleep in his car in the parking lot of the newspaper, one time on the night of Easter Sunday, waiting to fix what he called a “major break” in the old press.
The Goss Metro press, which Cote refers to as the “old goat,” was acquired by the Naples Daily News in 1993. It was previously owned by The Rocky Mountain News out in Denver.
It’s hard work. But it’s not all work.
“We pulled a lot of pranks when we were younger,” Cote said.
On a recent evening in a breakroom, Cote and several others laughed about experiences in the pressroom — some funny and some not-so-funny. Like when they pulled a prank on Rocco, leaving him with black ink dripping down the back of his head. Or, when Rocco was driving a clam truck carrying five, 2,000-pound rolls of paper and it tipped over sending the rolls into the catwalk of the press.
Rocco Bovenzi, pictured above, has worked on the press for 17 years.
He says you “gotta be half crazy” to work as a pressman.
“Everyone’s home in bed while we’re here doing this stuff,” said the 56-year-old former musician who sports a ponytail and loves the blues.
Long after the reporters have gone home and the page designers have shut down their computers, the pressmen are still in the thick of it.
When you’re in the pressroom, you don’t really know if it’s night or day. It is hard to determine if you’re upstairs or downstairs. It’s a world of its own where time is kept by the papers flying by on a belt.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe you do have to be a little crazy to work in there.
Or maybe you just have to love newspapers.
“My wife says ‘you got ink in your blood,’” said Barry Mundy, a pressman at the Daily News since 1998.
Mundy is a 51-year-old former Marine who started as an apprentice more than 20 years ago in New Jersey. He remembers having to bribe his way in to the pressroom up north with a six-pack of beer.
He loves the history of the press. But he’s also excited about the future.
Mundy and a handful of other pressmen are still working at the old press on Central Avenue, making sure the paper comes out everyday while the operation switches over to the Daily News’ new location on Immokalee Road.
In the next few weeks, they will say goodbye to the press that is more mechanical than technical and say hello to a state-of-the-art printing press called WIFAG Evolution 371.
In the new building, their feet won’t stick to the floor, the air will be better circulated and they may not even need earplugs. Instead of moving the machine themselves, they will tell the machine to move with the touch of a button.
Many things will be different.
Pressmen working tirelessly behind the scenes will remain the same.