The Reporter celebrates the beginning of its 79th year
August 21, 2018
Unlike people who celebrate birthdays and anniversaries after the completion of a year, newspapers mark their time at the beginning of the year. With this edition, August 20, 2018, The South Pittsburgh Reporter begins its 79th year in print with Volume 79 Number 1.
Although I haven't been with the paper since the beginning, I've been here for more than half. As a student at Point Park College majoring in journalism I interned at The Reporter for several terms beginning in 1977. It was a natural fit seeing as my mother, Roberta F. Smith, was the editor of the paper at the time.
In January 1979, Roberta became editor and publisher of The South Pittsburgh Reporter and I was editorial assistant.
Production of the weekly paper then was a multi-day process. The deadlines we have today (although not as strict) were because of the process then. News copy and classified were due by noon on Thursday and ad copy by 4 p.m., this gave us time to type the copy and hand deliver the pages to the typesetters at the printing plant.
This being the early days of photo-typesetting on computers, the typesetters would re-type everything and put them into galleys for proofreading and corrections. Individual corrections would be cut out with a razor blade and pasted over the error.
Often, each line in an ad was set separately and pasted down using wax instead of glue so the type could be pulled up and put down multiple times if needed.
Looking back on some of the issues from the 70s and 80s the papers aren't as straight as they could have been.
Having an IBM Selectric II was the extent of our in-office technology when I began with the paper. Eventually, we would purchase our first computer. It came with a 12-inch monitor, five megabytes of memory and a "bigger than we would ever need" 100-megabyte hard drive.
With a copy of Lotus Ami Pro, a dot matrix printer and a little practice we were soon experimenting with word processing. Since we only had one, we had to share computer time and still kept the Selectric working along with several other electric typewriters in our four-person office.
After getting comfortable with word processing, such as it was, we experimented further with setting our own classified type. Type set in anything with less than 600 dpi is noticeable and our dot matrix printer was only 300 dpi, but the slight jagged edge was acceptable for the cost savings.
It wasn't long before the cost savings found its way into The Reporter's news copy. If anyone noticed, they didn't complain to us. An added benefit was having the corrections inserted into the copy without having to cut them out and paste them on top of the error.
A night class at Community College of Allegheny County in desktop publishing, a copy of Pagemaker and The Reporter was looking at being a little more self-sufficient. We added a wide carriage laser printer and after a little practice were able to start pasting up pages.
Although in the beginning, we still counted on our printer professionals to set the type for our ads. We would save space in the layouts for the ads and photographs to be pasted down before printing.
The introduction of digital cameras brought about another step forward for us. In the early days, we would count on commercial film processors or using at times a Polariod camera. Later on when one-hour film developing came we frequented the Foto Hut on East Carson Street. Still later, we would have our own black and white darkroom in the office.
It was convenient to process and print our own film, but it still took time.
Our first digital camera was a Sony Mavica that utilized 3.5" floppy disks. The camera was slow to write the photos to memory and they were a lower resolution than was preferred. However, that didn't stop us from using them when we started incorporating the photos into our desktop processing.
Very little changed for The Reporter as we moved through the 90s. The number of pages published each week went up and down with the number of advertisers. The paper went from eight pages in the 70s to 12, 16, 20 and sometimes 24 in the 90s.
The 2000s brought about new changes at The South Pittsburgh Reporter. Roberta Smith retired and Tom Smith became the editor and publisher. Up until then, most original news copy was written in-house by Roberta, Tom or the occasional intern.
With Roberta's retirement, The Reporter began using Contributing Writers. Margie Smykla, covers South Side and Mt. Oliver meetings for us and is our longest contributing writer having submitted her first story in February 2003.
At about the same time, February 2003, The South Pittsburgh Reporter went online with http://www.sopghreporter.com. The website contains all (or almost all) the stories and photos that have appeared in the print edition since February 11, 2003.
There's even a search feature on the website if you're looking for something that was published in The South Pittsburgh Reporter over the past 15 years. The site currently has more than 17,000 stories.
Sopghreporter.com is updated with Housing Court, Zoning Hearings and Real Estate Transactions along with any dated stories usually by Tuesday mornings. The full site is updated by Thursday morning, most weeks.
Those interested in going back further in our files will have to visit the Main Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. There, we've heard at least, are scans of most of the editions from 1978 to 2002 in the Pennsylvania Room.
The 70s are available on microfilm at the Heinz History Center in the library.
There are still paper copies from many of the past years, but the morgue isn't complete and is difficult to access.
Copies for the last several years are also available online at http://www.issuu.com/sopghreporter. There you can subscribe to The Reporter or just flip through the pages of a current or recent issue.
As the oldest weekly community paper in Pittsburgh and one of only two in the city, we look forward to bringing you the news from your neighborhood for the next 80 years. Help keep The Reporter in your community by supporting our advertisers and tell them you saw there ad here.