There are plenty of fine online periodicals, of course, but those were designed with the logic of the internet in mind. The local paper, on the other hand, was meant to draw a picture of a physical community, with its customs, rituals, manners, lingo and collective memory inscribed in a thousand minute ways. Even if you get it only for the yard-sale ads or to hate-read the letters column, its presence itself is reassuring, part of the sometimes thin fabric that holds you and your neighbors together. But if you can’t buy it at the gas station along with your six pack and your night crawlers, it might as well not exist.
Nevertheless, even as the physical newspaper is diminished in numbers, it bows to no product in the modernity and total awesomeness of its production. As these spectacular photos by Christopher Payne show, this paper is produced in College Point, Queens, on machines the size of large houses, which do everything from the unwinding of the paper rolls to the folding of the complete sections. Each tower prints 28 spreads at once, front and back, in cyan, magenta, yellow and black, at ridiculous speed — 80,000 copies an hour can be produced this way. And then you can hold it in your hand, fold it, tear it, use it as a rain hat — a voluminous paper object with visual dazzle and hundreds of thousands of words, representing the collected information of that moment: news, opinion, analysis, testimony, critique, charts, graphs, photos, displays. And it happens every day, over and over again. Small wonder they call it The Daily Miracle. — Luc Sante
Luc Sante is a writer and critic. His books include “Low Life,” “Kill All Your Darlings” and “The Other Paris.”
A Newspaper, From Start to Finish
Mike Connors, who manages The Times’s printing plant in College Point, Queens, started working for the Times in 1976, long before this plant was built in 1997. Connors is Fourth-generation with the Times; his family has been working for the organization for 126 years. He often works the night shift. “Urgency is second nature. You’ve got one chance at night, one inning.”