Newspaper changes driven by technology
AS The Cheadle and Tean Times (reaches its 120th Birthday) (marks 120 years in business,) we look back at the way the company has evolved from its conception back in 1896.
What was once little more than a two-person cottage industry, has become the last bastion of independent, family-run newspapers in Staffordshire.
Affectionately known locally as The Stunner, The Cheadle and Tean Times, along with sister papers the Uttoxeter Echo and Blythe and Forsbrook Times, are the only remaining newspapers in the county which are not owned by large media corporations.
For 12 decades, The Stunner has served its local community, providing a mix of news, community events, sport and advertising.
The Cheadle and Tean Times was established in the very early days of news publishing and while the paper noted the events of the day, records of the newspaper itself and its role in the community were not kept until after the First World War.
Local entrepreneur, Jesse Lowndes, was the printer and proprietor of the town’s first newspaper, based at that time in Cheadle High Street.
Jesse was in poor health and relied largely on his two employees to manage much of the practical work.
The business was based in the former stables of the Unicorn pub, which had been converted into a printing works by ‘Prim’ Thorley and were rented to the fledgling newspaper at a nominal rent.
Every letter had to be set by hand before being printed on a cylinder printing press, which was turned by hand.
The business was supported by general printing work, but a drop in sales saw the paper’s publication put into abeyance for a while.
Apprentices Archie Holmes and Jermone Alcock kept the business ticking over during coal strikes by printing wage tickets for the weighbridge at the Tape Mill, which dealt with many thousands of tons of outcrop coal being dug out of the old racecourse at Cheadle’s Harewood road.
A rival newspaper, the Cheadle Herald, folded, providing a new opportunity for The Stunner to relaunch itself – a move which was a success from the start with the first issue completely selling out.
It was shortly after that time that the boon of electricity came to the town and the back-breaking labour of turning the printing machine by hand came to an end.
Archie Holmes moved from apprentice to owner, following the retirement of Jesse Lowndes in 1937.
In poor conditions mechanical type-setting was finally introduced with the purchase of a model one Linotype and a succession of part-time workers used this ‘hot metal’ process to produce the now weekly publication.
The Second World War years brought their own difficulties and a procession of reporters, printers and compositors came and went until another former apprentice, Percy Campbell, took the company on in 1953.
Immediately seeing an opportunity to expand, Percy launched the Uttoxeter Echo within two years and opened an office for the new paper in Church Street.
The paper continued to thrive and in 1961, the business in Cheadle switched offices to its current Tape Street premises.
A former paint store owned by Alfred Hurst, the building was adapted to meet the needs of a busy newspaper firm and a Cossar Press was installed.
A new office block was added in 1965 and a further extension to the side of the building was erected in the early 1970s as Percy continued to build the business.
The company continued to move with the times, bringing a final end to the ‘hot metal’ process in 1976 and replaced it with modern photosetting machines, which were quicker cleaner and more efficient.
Sadly, Percy Campbell died in 1980, leaving the business in the care of his son, Paul, who remains the owner, managing director and editor to this day.
As the 1980s continued, the Cossar Press was beginning to hold back the technological progress happening in other departments.
By 1991, the press was gone and the pages were sent to various specialist newspaper printing companies, today it is printed at Horncastle before being brought back to Cheadle for packing and delivery to local newsagents.
The biggest changes to the production process have happened in the last 25 years, with the introduction of modern computers.
The first Apple Macintosh computer was installed at the firm in 1991 and was later up-graded with four Apple Macintosh ‘Performa’ computers introdfuced in 1993, which allowed pages to be created on-screen.
Over the following decades, the technology has become ever faster and wide-reaching.
These days, computers are used in all aspects of the business, from small ads and classifieds to admin, accounting, advertising, page design and, of course, news.
Email, internet access and social media have transformed the way we communicate – and all of these things have been embraced in recent years.
Combining old and new is also an important aspect of the newsroom, where reporters use the latest in news-gathering techniques while continuing the long-standing journalism tradition of getting out into the community and finding news ‘on the ground.’
The dark room has been rendered obsolete thanks to the introduction of digital cameras, while more than 100 years of monochrome newspapers have been replaced by bright, full-colour pages and beautifully crafted advertisements for the many businesses which continue to support their local newspaper, recognising it as a valuable community asset.
Every page of every edition is carefully constructed with the aim of balancing a traditional, community feel with modern principles of design.
Each page is converted into a pdf and sent via internet transfer to Morton’s Print in Lincolnshire.
Using the very latest in web offset printing technology, Morton’s specialise in web offset newspaper printing using award-winning computer-to-plate technology.
As the business celebrates 120 years, editor, Paul, will oversee the digital expansion of the company with the iminent launch of the companies new website.
While the firm has had a web presence for a number of years, the development of news provision online has been carefully scrutinised prior to the launch of the new website this year, which will allow subscribers to view a complete e-edition of every newspaper, as well as featuring top news stories, competitions and events.
The website will also allow readers to place small adverts and family announcements as well as ordering photgraphs on line.
Has the industry as a whole continues to consider the way forward through the ‘digital revolution’ Paul has re-affirmed a commitment to print media.
He said: “The Cheadle and Tean Times and her sister newspapers, have provided an essential service to our readers for 120 years and will continue to do so.
“While we have always been keen to push the boundaries of innovation and embrace the latest technology, our core customers are our readers, our advertisers and the communities we serve.”
We are the only family run, independent newspaper and magazine business in Staffordshire, established 1896. We are home to three weekly newspapers – The Cheadle and Tean Times (aka The Stunner), The Uttoxeter Echo and The Blythe and Forsbrook Times.
We also produce Peeps into the Past, a bi-monthly nostalgic glimpse into our photographic archives, and three bi-monthly glossy lifestyle magazines – Stone and Eccleshall Life, Leek Life and Newcastle Life.
T. 01538 752214 or 753162
18 Tape Street, Cheadle, Staffs ST10 1BD
T. 01889 562479
5 Church Street, Uttoxeter, Staffs ST14 8AG (Uttoxeter Office is a postal address only)