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Times-Republican celebrates National Newspaper Week

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM The American flag flies above the sign of the Times-Republican on Main Street in Marshalltown.

The 79th annual National Newspaper Week kicked off Oct. 6, almost half as long as the Times-Republican has been in circulation.

The Times-Republican has had a strong community presence in Marshalltown since its founding 161 years ago.

From informing the public about issues that impact their families and businesses, to seeing photos of wiener dogs in races to employing more than 50 people, the Times-Republican has kept on printing. Even the day after the July 2018 tornado, the presses were not stopped and people of Marshalltown got their paper.

Publisher Abigail Pelzer said, “To us it was an effort to let people know we were going to trudge on, despite the tragedy. We were going to lead them and provide them with information to start the recovery process.”

That leadership and dedication to the community was shown in the hundreds of articles printed about the tornado recovery. Not only was the Times-Republican spreading information about the tornado, but countless other subjects important to the community.

Steve Plain, the information technology professional for the Times-Republican, has been employed there for 21 years. As he tries to help out a fellow employee on the phone with a computer problem, he goes through some old papers.

There have been bond referendums, city projects and fundraising efforts that have used the paper as a vehicle to push the information out.

The Times-Republican began the anti-bullying campaign “Not In Our Town,” which had an impact across the nation.

All of the efforts have garnered the Times-Republican recognition from the Iowa Newspaper Association as a finalist for the 2019 Community Leadership award, in addition to the numerous reporting and advertising awards received during the years by employees.

Family history

One employee is Steven Plain who has worked for the Times-Republican for 27 years. He started out designing advertisements and then became the paper’s information technology and pre-press professional.

T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM Rob Curley, the press operator for the Times-Republican since 1990, makes sure the press is working properly on Wednesday.

Plain makes sure the computers are working properly and fixes them when something goes wrong. One thing Plain really enjoys about his job is that there is something new every day. One day he could be upgrading computers and getting plates ready for the press and the next he could be backing up another computer system.

Working behind the scenes is something Plain prefers.

“I would rather be the person behind the camera, someone who makes other people look good,” he said. “When the paper is out and people are reading it, I know I’ve done my job.”

Not only has Plain been at the Times-Republican for more than two decades, the paper is engrained into his family.

His father worked on advertising from 1968-1995 and his mother worked in the mail room. Plain’s older brother worked in circulation and as children, almost every single sibling had a paper route.

Just Plain’s family history displays how complex the paper business is.

“It takes a lot of people to get the paper out the door,” Plain said.

Into readers’ hands

Pelzer described the process of getting the paper into the hands of readers as an art.

Page layouts are mapped for the issue and page count, color and content are determined by advertising. The ads are placed on the pages first after they are designed and content written for them.

While that is happening, the editorial staff – or the newsroom – is busy reporting news and sports and getting photographs. While reporters are expected to generate their own story ideas, news tips and ideas are always welcome from the public.

“Much focus is spent on local government and education,” Pelzer said.

The advertising and editorial departments are given strict deadlines so the paper can be “put to bed” by midnight by editorial so a new scope of work can begin.

“In pre-press the news pages on a PDF are sent through a machine that copies the content on aluminum plates,” Pelzer said. “Those plates end up on the press to transfer content to the newsprint.”

After the press prints all of the papers, they are directed to the mailroom for processing. The mailroom uses a machine that places advertising inserts in the middle of the newspaper and an inkjet machine is used to apply addresses to the newspapers.

Facilitator for action

Even though many people say newspapers are dying, neither Pelzer nor Plain see the role of the Times-Republican fading in Marshalltown.

Pelzer said one of the primary roles of the paper is to help local businesses and inform readers about the importance of shopping locally. Readers can learn about deals and products featured in the advertising spaces of the paper. That information is not available anywhere else.

“Meanwhile we tell the local news and sports. They can’t get that anywhere else,” Pelzer said. “It is important to tell the story of Marshalltown, how things impact people, their families and their businesses.”

“We inform everybody and we are a facilitator for action,” Plain said.

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com