Last week, I passed a quaint little print shop in a town in Washington. I longed to go inside and just see what they were!
I have had a life-long fascination with words. And that includes the look of words, as well as their meanings. In fact, some of my favorite words are the ones that look just absolutely crazy!
It seems only natural that I’d love print and typography as well.
I authored a post a few weeks ago about steam-powered presses and how they affected the newspaper industry. Today, I want to post not about a benefit to the newspaper industry, but about the near annihilation of it instead.
Overview of the Strike
On December 8, 1962, masses of printers began a strike which would be the death knell for several New York newspapers.
According to vanityfair.com, the strike lasted 114 days and would spell the end of four separate newspapers in New York. The strike actually temporarily shut down seven NY newspapers during the 114 days. Only three of which were able to recover and stay alive.
The Beginning of the Strike
“A little more than two hours after midnight on December 8, 1962, hundreds of printers walked away from their clattering Linotype machines and their rumbling presses and departed en masse from The New York Times’s block-long composing room, on West 43rd Street.
Everything they deemed essential—typewriters, adding machines, a public-address system, manila folders stuffed with union documents—was packed into cardboard boxes and carted away to strike headquarters, in Greenwich Village.” link to vanityfair.com article
The printers involved in this strike belonged to the International Typographical Union (ITU)–the No. 6 division. According to Vanity Fair, many of the men involved were second generation Americans of Irish, Italian, and Jewish descent.
On December 8th, the New York Times was the first to shut down as an effect of the strike. The other six were close to shut down as well.
“The showdown of 1962–63 pitted around 17,000 newspaper employees—pressmen, photoengravers, paper handlers, reporters, elevator operators, office boys—against the owners and publishers of seven New York City newspapers…”link to vanityfair.com article
So, why did they strike?
Along with the TIU–many organizations and unions in the 60s were very powerful. It seems that the newspapers were determined to minimize the power and effect of unions and associations–which lead them to taking a stand against the newspaper employees.
At the same time, unionized newspapers kept to traditional methods and technologies to preserve jobs. There were new technologies emerging–but only newer newspaper stations were using them.
“At its core, the New York newspaper strike was a battle over technology. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of computerized typesetting systems that would revolutionize the newspaper composing room. Newspapers that prohibited unions, such as the Los Angeles Times, rushed to install cutting-edge computers such as the RCA 301. Newspapers with union contracts, including those in New York City, faced tempestuous resistance from labor leaders, who could easily see that automation would cost jobs.”link to vanityfair.com article
Why Was This a Big Deal?
I’m not really sure how many people read newspapers anymore today. I’ve actually tried to talk about events to coworkers and others that I’ve read in the news, only to find they haven’t heard a thing about them. I don’t read the newspaper. I read a news app…. I’m not sure many of my generation are even doing that anymore.
Well, back in the 60s, New York was affectionately called “a newspaper town.” We know from the details above, there were at least 7 major newspapers in New York alone. I think there were probably smaller other ones as well.
Author’s Note: I found this on vanityfair.com “The strike would put a decisive end to New York as a boisterous newspaper town, one that in the 1920s had possessed 19 dailies.”
What Did This Strike Cause
Aside from the obvious effect of shutting down 4 of 7 major newspapers permanently in NY, the strike had some bigger consequences.
For one–the death and struggle of so many newspapers were a boon to the newer field of televised news. “The newsgathering abilities of local TV stations would grow in size and sophistication.”link to vanityfair.com
The 1962-1963 strikes also changed the type of content in newspapers. Writers that joined on during or after the strikes felt much more open to explore more creative–more journalistic–topics, since everything was changing anyway.
If I get time, I’d like to add to this post and add so many more juicy tidbits from this time frame and how newspapers worked! There was so much in the Vanity Fair article. In the meantime, please click on the following link to read more fascinating pieces of information about newspapers and the strike and the ripple effects: