An Old-Style Look Back on Printers

Connie Tuttle's columns usually raise my blood pressure. This is a good thing. I am one of those rare beings blessed/cursed with low blood pressure. Without the Tuttles of the world, I could easily out-sleep your average house cat.

However, Tuttle's recent column (Aug. 19) eulogizing printers as yet another salt-of-the-earth group sadly being banished into oblivion by technology simply made me laugh. Not that her points weren't salient; she just forgot to mention that the last couple of generations of printers had more in common with Benny Hill than Benny Franklin.

I worked for years in various editor's guises at several daily newspapers across the country. Although each newspaper and its editorial minions had a unique personality, the composing rooms where the printers practiced their craft were indistinguishable: You could have transported any of them whole and grafted them onto the newsroom of a wholly different publication 3,000 miles distant, and the crew inside would not have known the difference.

Each had a cadre of men and women dedicated to the proposition that their only function was to uphold union rules and report directly to the Boss Hogg foreman any deviations therefrom. This modus operandi was inviolable come flood, hurricane or shuttle disaster, and regardless of deadline pressure.

The first rule of union printers: Editors are the enemy. The corollary to this rule is that anything that goes wrong is an editor's fault. Understand that copy editors once were sent into the printers' lair by the news editor for each edition of the paper. These stalwarts were picked for their courage in the face of unrelenting hostility and marginal personal hygiene. Or simply because the news editor didn't like them.

Which brings us to the second rule: Editors could not come into any physical contact with anything in the composing room, especially the type being set onto the pages. Any violation or perceived violation of this rule resulted in the unleashing of the hounds of hell itself. The offended printer then would call out to Boss Hogg to report the offense. A consultation between the two would then take place, and after a series of mute head nods, Hogg would clear his throat and pronounce judgment as to whether the desecrated page should now be destroyed and rebuilt from scratch, or whether the offense was merely a reportable infraction.

There is a certain element of sadness to all this. Even the three-fingered printers (silent testimony to their days on the printing-press crew) could count on one hand the instances of printers and news crews voluntarily sharing a brew or cue with the other. Even off the clock, the gulf between the tribes could not be bridged.

Some years ago, I glimpsed a clue as to why this might be. It came from a special report on illiteracy featured on one of the networks' evening news magazines. Two older adults who had courageously supported themselves throughout their lifetimes despite being illiterate were being interviewed. When they related their vocations, the arrow hit the apple. Surprisingly, they weren't reporters: they were, however, printers.

Dave Anderson

Downing's Take on Malls? 'Pathetic'

I just read the Renée Downing opinion piece (Aug. 26) concerning three Tucson area malls: What garbage!

First, it would be nice to compare apples to apples. La Encantada is a different breed of animal than Park Place and the long-dead El Con venues. Ms. Downing ought to get out of town a little more often and learn about what is going on in the world.

Some facts about the Nordstrom debacle would have been nice. Was it "bait and switch" or another Tucson tradition, "death by pander"? How about some research rather than relying on gossip and spoon-fed "facts"?

Also, it's so nice to once more read the obligatory complaints about the disappearance of the pristine desert. The La Encantada site was zoned for commercial development for a long time; what did people think was going to happen--a desert preserve on someone else's dime? Why not place blame where it belongs: inept government and bad planning?

Yeah, let's glory in La Encantada's struggle. Tucson needs a few more failures to solidify its status as a rotten place to do business (unless you're a fast food joint or a loan-sharking business). No point creating any jobs here or bringing in sales tax revenue; it's already perfect! Pathetic.

Alan Rosen

A Defense of Virginia Abernethy's 'Separatist' Views

Let me be the first to say I may not have all the news about the Protect Arizona Now initiative and (adviser) Dr. Virginia Abernethy, but in fairness and truth, I believe your quotes about her are very misleading and just plain wrong (The Range, Aug. 26).

When the Federation for American Immigration Reform statement came along, I got in an e-mail bitch-fight with another PAN member, because I found the FAIR statement undocumented, and to me, very unFAIR. Well, I tried to get more information on the subject, and in the process received a call from Kathy McKee, the PAN director. Here is the rest of the story.

Dr. Abernethy is a social scientist and an anthropologist, who, in the past, did a lot of university teaching and studies in these fields. One of many topics she dealt with was the subject of people living alongside or with other people. The gist of this study was that all over the world, people like and, in fact, do live by people of like color, religion, class or other conditions--is there any surprise here, or any racism?

Remember all those wars over culture, language, borders and history? The FAIR accusation is more like saying if a doctor of philosophy studies the basis of national socialism in 20th-century Europe, they must be a Nazi. Times are tough, especially in politics, but this old racism stuff is getting tired, and Lord knows there is plenty of racism to go round. Just look at the United Nations, the NAACP, African politics and the world in general; it is very, very sad. Dr. Abernethy has the right, the freedom and the responsibility to be and study what ever she wants. That is the American way--or are some people trying to change that, too?

Bob Bennett

Crawford's Letter Shows He's an Apologist's Tool

I have read Michael Crawford's unpleasant and factually false drive-by shooting of Councilmember Steve Leal ("The Downtown Alliance: All's Well," Mailbag, Aug. 19). Leal has voted for the majority of downtown projects, like the Fox Theater and the train depot. He also made the motion to accept the University of Arizona Science Center, Rio Nuevo and voted for the large housing project on the west side of Interstate 10, etc. He did vote against funding the Downtown Alliance, because the funding mechanism was unfair to small businesses. He is nobody's lapdog.

As to the publication the alliance distributes, Leal has repeatedly said he does not think governments should start newspapers just because they do not like what others are writing. It is naïve for Crawford to think that the alliance, upon whose board he sits, would ever seriously bite the hand that feeds them. They are greatly dependent on the city for money every year; they will tend to be an apologist's tool.

Actually, Crawford has been an apologist for the powerful for years. After all, when he was in office, Crawford sold out his own ward by pandering to the sprawl machine. The people of Tucson appropriately threw him out of office. He has been whining ever since.

Crawford should spend time trying to figure out who he is, rather than trying to tell us who he thinks other people are.

Gretchen Lueck

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