As the Daily Trojan celebrates its 100-year anniversary, photographers no longer have to manually develop their film, editors don’t have to bike east of the Harbor Freeway to lay out their stories and staff members aren’t tied down writing their stories on manual typewriters in the newsroom.
Though technology at the DT has evolved, the basic production process has stayed the same. After a reporter submits the story, it’s edited by section editors, copy editors, managing editors and the editor in chief. Pages are laid out, proofread and sent to the printer. The next morning, completed copies of the paper hit newsstands for readers to pick up.
Mona Cravens, who started work at USC Student Publications in 1976 and became director of student publications in 1982, said, though the production process has essentially stayed the same, the execution has changed dramatically.
During the newspaper’s early production days in 1912, reporters had to go into the paper’s offices to write their stories on manual typewriters. According to the 1928 El Rodeo, this process became more convenient for staff members when the paper’s offices were relocated in 1928 from the Moneta Print Shop, which was located on Jefferson Street, to the Student Union.
“Being in the center of all student offices, the Trojan reporters were aided in making contacts more readily than when the office was away from campus,” El Rodeo reported.
Though the newsroom was located on campus, editors were unable to complete their production entirely in Student Union. Until the 1980s, students edited stories at an off-site location.
“Several times each night, various editors rode bikes from the Student Union a couple of blocks east of the Harbor Freeway at Exposition Boulevard to Graphic Services, a USC printing department, to deliver batches of articles and photographs,” Cravens said.
One of the people who would help produce the paper at Graphic Services was Ron Flores, who has been working in DT production for 42 years and currently works as the DT’s nightly production manager.
For each section, Flores would retype stories on paper tape, develop the tape by running it through a film processer and print out stories on a long piece of film called a galley, which he would cut out and paste to a board to create section proofs.
When editors finished editing proofs, usually around 2 a.m., Flores drove the paste-up boards to a Glendale, Calif. print shop for the final stages of the production process. At times, this proved problematic, but none so much as during the 1992 L.A. riots, when the DT finished production after the curfew put in place by the city.
“It was so eerie. No one was on the streets but the National Guard,” Flores said, recalling the drive to Glendale. “There were just the police and the National Guard and the burning buildings. It was kind of scary. … I just thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’”
In 1979, this process was streamlined when the DT cut out the film developing process by writing stories on computers, which Flores could use to directly print the galleys. The transition, however, was not an easy one. Steve Padilla, the DT’s editor in chief in 1982 and a current Los Angeles Times editor, said system crashes kept the paper from being published at least once during his tenure.
“Our computers were so bad we would sometimes switch mid-day from computers to typewriters and go to a printer in Glendale [to finish production of the paper],” Padilla said in an email. “I saw the sun rise from the DT office about three times because we stayed all night.”
Scott Smith, the associate director of Student Publications and the DT’s spring 2001 editor in chief, described his time on the paper as a “partial-digital” production: Editors had access to computers, but Flores still used a manual process to assemble stories and ads on pages.
“If any [equipment] were to break down, we would be dead in the water,” Cravens said. “There were times where it didn’t work, and we had to take [Flores] … and some of the students up to the printer in Glendale and re-keyboard the paper for the next day on their machines.”
Flores said he worried while working with computers during the partial-digital era because of their unreliability. There was no backup in place, and production would have to be moved to the printers’ offices or back to old “hot type” machines.
In the late 1990s, the DT began transitioning to a fully digital production by creating an online version of the paper. The original website, created in 1996, was hosted on usc.edu, and editors had the labor-intensive job of scanning in and posting still-black-and-white graphics and pictures.
After the turn of the millennium, the DT continued its technological growth by switching to a color-printed edition, moving to its current DailyTrojan.com web domain and expanding the use of computers in the newsroom. In 2005, the DT switched to the completely digital system it uses today, which allows Flores to send pages to the printer electronically.
“Everything works so well now,” Flores said. “Back then I would work my a– off … but I paid my dues. I was always here and ready to get the paper out, and stayed no matter what happened.”
This fully digital production still came with its own set of technological mishaps, from crashing pages to power outages.
“[Once, there was] no power to the building for Sunday production, so [Cravens] and I gathered up computers … and had to have editors come to her house and produce the paper there,” Smith said. “There was a lot of moving things around on flash drives. Working with adversity is always interesting.”
Today, the DT’s newest challenge is building its web presence. Editors now have the ability to work with video, podcasts and photo galleries to provide content in new ways.
Smith said the goal of the paper has always been to use technology to prepare students for their future careers in journalism.
“Our goal is always to be at the cutting edge of what’s being used,” Smith said. “We are sometimes several years ahead of what’s being used at commercial papers … [and] it really is an advantage when students graduate and go out into their careers.”
Despite the technological challenges and the changes over the past 100 years, Cravens said what makes the DT significant is its ability to continue producing content no matter what roadblocks appear.
“Those were some of the best experiences because it demonstrated how solid our team was,” Cravens said. “When things go wrong, there is always a spirit of ‘can do’ that goes throughout our organization. … [Everyone feels] very committed to getting that paper out the next day.”