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Counting candles at Colorado Central

Brief by Central Staff

Media – March 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Colorado Central turns 14 with this edition; the first edition was dated March, 1994. That one, like all the others, was printed at the Arkansas Valley Publishing (the corporate entity that publishes the Mountain Mail) in Salida, and things have certainly changed there.

When we started, we took pasted-up flats to the printer. The type and pictures were produced by different processes, and had to be assembled by hand into one sheet for each page. These were in turn assembled into groups of eight pages (a process called imposing), and photographed by a big camera (process camera). The resulting big negatives, approximately 22 by 34 inches, were placed against photo-sensitive aluminum plates, and an arc lamp burned the image onto the plates. The plates were flexible, and were mounted on the press.

The press then had only three units, each capable of putting one color of ink (generally black) on both sides of a roll of paper, thus producing 16 of our pages per unit. A 32-page edition, such as we ran then, took two units, and adding color took another. The press output had to be trimmed and stapled which involved a lot of hand labor.

Today it’s a lot simpler. We don’t paste anything together; it’s all done on the computer, and we take the magazine to the printer not on paper, but as PDF files on a CD we burn.

The page images are burned directly to the press plate, without all the intermediate photography. The press has six units plus two color decks that apply the colors in one pass, rather than using a press unit for each color. The after-press work of assembly, trimming and stitching (or stapling) is automated.

Martha and Ed used to own the newspaper in Kremmling, which was variously printed in Craig, Boulder, Silverthorne, and Littleton, all of which required a lot of late-night driving on mountain roads. It’s a blessing to have such a modern facility within walking distance.

Many of the press customers are out of town and send their work in over the Internet. We tried that, and discovered that in this respect, the oldest communication technology is faster than the newest. In other words, it takes less time (about 10 minutes) to walk the five blocks from Central World Headquarters to the Mountain Mail plant with a CD than it does to transmit the material over a fast broadband connection (about half an hour).

The day may come when this magazine is no longer printed and mailed, but delivered electronically. Technologically, it’s possible now, and the economics look attractive, since printing and postage are among our biggest expenses.

But many people have told us, in a somewhat embarrassed tone, that I keep my Colorado Central for reading in the bathroom. After all, it’s a convenient size and we try to publish pieces in a variety of lengths. We find it a compliment that people like to read Colorado Central there — and no one’s come up with a computer or ebook or whatever suitable for bathroom reading.

Anyway, when we started, we never imagined we’d still be doing it 14 years later. We figured that it would either lose money and die, or someone would come along and buy us out. But Colorado Central continues at an awkward size: too big for a hobby, too small for a full-time business.