Bubil: For me, 40 years and counting


At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, this month marks my 40th year with the newspaper. In 1974, I started my career with Lindsay Newspapers Inc. two days after graduating from the University of Florida’s journalism school.

I have been given the opportunity to do many things, including edit, write, copyedit, take photos and videos, and appear on SNN TV. I’ve been a sports reporter, columnist and editor; health editor; religion editor; and, since 1994, real estate editor.

I remember hot lead, curt compositors, manual typewriters, phoning in a story from a phone booth, and taking dictation from a stringer at 6 a.m.

I remember leaving one fingernail long so as to cut the paper as wire stories came off the teletype machine; Linotype machines that generated three lines of “hot” type (cast from molten lead) per minute by hand (11 with punched paper tape); and pica poles, which is a metal ruler used by printers. I still have one of those.

I also edited the first cold-type section at Lindsay Newspapers. I believe it was in 1978. I also remember when punctuation mattered and spell-check was something you did by opening the dictionary or style book.

In the late 1970s, typewriters gave way to our first word-processing computers. Stories (data) were stored on 51/4-inch floppy disks, and if you didn’t have the cursor at the end of the story when you hit the FINI key, you lost all the text that followed the cursor’s location.

And if you accidentally kicked the power cord under the desk before hitting FINI, you lost everything. I can recall a 20-minute phone interview with Bobby Bowden, who was then in his second year as Florida State football coach. As I hung up, the phone cord brushed against the power key. Interview lost. For this kind of incident, we had a saying: “The story is always better the second time you write it.” Especially on deadline.

In the composing room, the compositors, skilled at building pages with slugs of lead with raised lettering, were learning how to wax, cut and compose the pages with the text on strips of photosensitive paper. This was quite an adjustment for them — from highly skilled printers to paste-up artists with an X-Acto knife. There was some resentment.

The “cold type” came out of a phototypesetting machine that set 600 lines per minute — a huge productivity increase. (While word processors greatly reduced the incidence of typos, it did not eliminate them.) The compositors ran the cold type through a waxing machine and stuck the strips to blue-lined grid sheets. The grid sheets were scanned and the press plates made from those scans.

Our 1933 Hoe rotary letterpress, circa 1950. We replaced it in 1984.

Our 1933 Hoe rotary letterpress, circa 1950. We replaced it in 1984.

Eventually, we evolved to pagination software that incorporates all elements of the page — photos, advertisements, graphics, text and headlines — into a single computer file. Once the editor releases the page as done, our pre-press department (just a few people now), checks the ads and sends the page off to the press electronically. Putting out a section is less stressful now.

Our current press, a Goss Metroliner, was installed by The New York Times Co. in 1984 after it purchased Lindsay Newspapers Inc. in 1982. The 20-unit Goss offset press replaced a four-unit 1933 Hoe letterpress; printing color on that thing almost required an act of Congress. The Goss greatly increased our color capability (28 full-color pages per run) and the number of total pages we can print. By providing effective color advertising, this press has been a major economic engine and profit creator for local businesses.

Now we have the Internet and Twitter and Facebook and HeraldTribune.com to supplement our news reporting in the printed newspaper. Many people may think the newspaper is dying. But others think differently.

“It is not dying,” said Michael Saunders, who relies heavily on print advertising to publicize her real estate company’s listings. “Maybe in some markets, but not in this one.”

I remember being the kid in the newsroom, fighting for a scrap of respect. Now I am in the top 5 in the longevity category behind pressman Gary Kerschner, who was hired two years before I was, and sports copy editor John Brockman, who has been here 53 years. I surrender, John. You are the king.

Sitting all around me, though, are young journalists like Justine Griffin, Zac Anderson, Josh Salman, Katy Bergen and Ian Cummings, among others. This new generation is bright, talented and competent, and I feel comfortable with them taking over the business.

The Herald-Tribune has been a second family for me, and many in the family have moved on for one reason or another. Sometimes I feel a bit like the Tom Hanks character in “The Green Mile” who outlived his loved ones.

Earlier this month, my wife produced a party at the Herald-Tribune that was attended by readers, sources and colleagues. They have taught me so much. It was a tremendous thrill, and I am grateful to all who not only attended, but have meant so much to me professionally over the years.

I have no plans to retire.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: December 23, 2014
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