Robert Holland’s comment to my post, In Praise of Bookstores, made me think of how much I owe my career success to having spent a great deal of time in print shops.
I believe that to be a true communication/PR professional, you must have a thorough knowledge of and experience with the printing process. You have to get some printers’ ink into your bloodstream.
I began my career journey in a humble manner. In college, I cleaned the presses for each run of our student newspaper.
In my first job after graduation, I was editor of a U.S. Army publication in Germany while stationed there with the 32d Army Air Defense Command in Kaiserslautern. My newspaper was printed at a German print shop in the small town of Otterbach. I loved spending time there while the newspaper was prepared and printed. It was my first professional opportunity to work with a printer, and I learned so much from the staff there. I even learned all my type fonts and sizes in German to be able to communicate with the staff.
My second job after being discharged from the army was as managing editor of an award-winning weekly newspaper. The newspaper was printed in a print shop 60 miles north of the city it served. I loved going there each week to supervise the press run. I became good friends with the owner of the print shop, and he gave me the run of the place. His name was W. C. (“Dub”) Shoemaker, and he became a dear friend and mentor to me.
There is something magical and fulfilling about watching your hard work come off the press. I was allowed to work with Shoemaker’s staff in every department as my page proofs worked their way through the printing process. Then, standing at the end of the huge offset press, grabbing a finished publication as it came out of the folder, I could, as Robert described it, hold my work in my hands, and in so doing, feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
I left the weekly newspaper editor’s job to join my first corporate communication department. Among other duties, I was managing editor of a large monthly publication, that was, fortunately enough for me, printed at Shoemaker’s shop. I usually spent a couple of days there getting that publication out each month. I did that for years, and I never got tired of it. I leaned so much about the printing process and how to make the most of it. I think every communicator/PR professional should have such knowledge. It adds a wider dimension to your professional skills.
Plus, the printing process is quite interesting if you are a serious communication/PR professional. Every top communicator I ever looked up to had printers’ ink in the bloood. It completes your work and brings a satisfying conclusion to your projects. It is much more satisfying to be part of the printing process, too, in addition to all the development, writing, and design of any given project.
I left that organization, and sadly, Shoemaker’s beloved print shop, and moved on to other corporate communication management positions in different cities. I still dealt with printers on a regular basis, as is necessary to be successful in this business. I was thankful to have had such a good grounding in the printing process. It helped me tremendously.
Today’s communication/PR students may never need to enter a print shop. For a very long time now, it has been easy to send complete layouts to the print shop online and never set foot in the shop itself. That is remarkable progress and very efficient, but it also lacks soul. Like Robert said, the smell and feel of printers’ ink gets in your nose and on your hands, but it also gets into your heart/blood stream. I miss that experience.
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