Feeling old

I just posted something on Alan Mutter's blog -- an item about planned redesigns at Tribune Company newspapers -- and realized afterward that hardly anybody currently employed at an American newspaper will have any idea why I referred to "funereal column rules" in Peter Palozzo's design for the old Chicago Daily News.

Friday I was chatting with a woman at work, much younger than myself, who has an unusual necklace, a gift from her newspaperman father. It's a Linotype matrix, a little brass mold for setting the letter F in type ("type" meaning molten lead, not pixels on a screen). She wore it on a visit to one of our newspapers. The executive editor asked her if it was some sort of Star Trek thing.

Here's the Palozzo explanation.

In the final days of the struggling Chicago Daily News, art director Peter Palozzo was brought in to try some visual shock therapy. He produced a design that had a jiggy new Bookman Swash logo and broke the pages into three vertical sections, each separated by a thick black line. You could fold the paper and read it on the El.

It was funereal, because in the days of hot type it was common for major stories of great sadness for a paper to "turn the rules" -- literally flip the lead column dividers upside down, so the fat base instead of the thin top presented itself. In other words, a thick black line.

Before this post there was not one single reference on the Internet to "turn the rules" and "hot type." Things change. We move on.


I'm too young to get this reference, but I do remember dealing with Xacto knives and hot wax paste up on lightboards in high school. I also typed in legals for the weekly paper. I think I got a raise for increasing productivity because I noticed that the same lawyers used the same templates and I created my own templates. I wonder when that business will go away.

My gray hairs turned slightly grayer after one of our reporters - not even the youngest! - heard me say I used a manual typewriter in my first job. "You know," he mused, "I've never even *seen* a typewriter."

Hey, I am the proud possessor of a complete set of Linotype matrices, shiny and new. Been that way since at least 1970. Didn't have the heart to toss them, but haven't found a home yet for them either. ALL my kids and the older grandkids have their own ideas about "The Matrix."

Wow! It's sad that the executive director of a newspaper didn't know what the matrix was. That's big part of publishing history. I'm 18 years old, and I know what a linotype machine is. (Though I have an interest in graphic design which might help!). Linotype machines are such an engineering marvel. They have a lot of really good youtube videos on them. Now being the age that I am, I have seen a typewriter, in fact I own one. When I can't type notecards, labels, and other things on my iMac, I use my manual typewriter. It's funny I stumbled upon this page because I was looking for a matrix necklace to wear. I thought that would be really cool :)