NEWS: Former Daily Examiner production man John Kenny.
NEWS: Former Daily Examiner production man John Kenny. Adam Hourigan

70 years on, DEX is still part of JK's life

NEARLY 70 years after walking into the Daily Examiner's office on Prince St, former linotype operator John Kenny still thinks of the paper as his own.

"It was just part of my life. I still say it's my paper. I don't own it, but I think of myself as owning part of it,” he said.

"There wasn't one day I would wake up and think, 'I don't want to go'.”

Mr Kenny began as a hand compositor and general printing apprentice in 1951.

"The newspaper was all lead in those days, when those pages were proofed then they went on the flatbed press,” he said.

"Each morning you had to strip the pages. They came off the press and had ink all over them. You had to wash that off.

"They were thrown into a big bucket and that went out the back and had to be melted down into ingot to use again.”

Ladling the metal, MrKenny said making the ingots was like filling a cake pan.

He remembered working the night shift and riding off to the gas company when it ran out.

"Sometimes the metal would start to go solid because there wasn't enough gas,” he said.

"Someone would say, okay Johnny, get on your bike and go to the gas company and tell them we need more gas.”

In 1957, a change of office, to King St, came alongside a new way of printing.

"We were still setting everything the same, but we had a rotary-type press,” MrKenny said.

The rotary press ushered in a more flexible way to print, the addition of a flong allowed operators to create a mould of the type rather than work directly onto the original flatbed press.

In the late 1970s, another relocation, this time to Victoria St brought with it more change. The newspaper had turned tabloid, and for the first time in history, the printing process didn't require hot metal.

Mr Kenny said the new "paste up” style of printing needed a QWERTY keyboard, a far cry from the linotype keyboard with one section for lower-case and one section for upper-case letters.

He recalled visiting the home of the-then Mayor's wife MrsEmerson alongside other typesetters to learn how to use the new technology.

"We would input the stories on floppy disks. We used to have the disks in a box. You'd finish one and just get something else,” he said.

"We started to input the photos too. We would scan them and input them.”

Mr Kenny said it was easier to get the paper out with the technology of the time, but he and his colleagues never minded the old way of doing things.

"We had a pretty hard life putting newspapers together. We didn't think it was tough at the time, you just did your job. Sometimes you never knew what time you'd knock off,” he said.

"They were long hours, about 48 hours a week. Typesetters were there typing all day to put it together. It was a big effort with a lot of workers.”

In half a century, MrKenny has countless stories to tell about the behind-the-scenes of newspaper production.

He has ensured Lower River residents got the paper in the worst of the floods, and helped his colleagues on their delivery route - in order to catch a ride home.

"The trucks used to pick up the papers to deliver downriver, I got to know them so I'd ask if I could travel with them to Palmers Island,” he said.

"We'd pick up the papers, then had to go to the dairy to pick up crates of milk.

"We had a paper run all the way downriver, nearly every farmhouse got an Examiner. I used to throw them out. I got to know every farm from here to Palmers Island.”

Mr Kenny remains a prominent community member, as an ambassador for the Clarence River Jockey Club, and avid reader of his newspaper.