In their heyday, daily newspapers were referred to as “the daily miracle.” And since Heeten and Thalla-Marie Choxi founded it, Montclair Local has been a “weekly miracle,” pulled together by a small and stalwart staff.
The April 27 issue of Montclair Local, which will be the final print edition for the nonprofit news organization, needed an extra dose of saving grace. This issue of the newspaper is extra-large – 64 pages, compared with our usual 20 pages. So we had many more stories to report, write and edit; photographs to take; ads to sell, design and place; and pages to design and proofread as we raced toward our deadline of midnight Tuesday. We worked straight through the weekend because we wanted to make sure our final issue of the newspaper, which goes to every home in Montclair, would be as good as it could be.
Then on Monday morning we got stunning news: The Gannett printing plant in Rockaway, New Jersey – where we print the newspapers – had suffered a serious fire that damaged the press that prints our papers. Thankfully, no people were seriously injured in the fire. But suddenly Montclair Local had a huge obstacle to overcome.
Our operations and sales manager, Jack Marflak, spent the better part of two days looking for another printing plant that could handle our press run of 16,000 newspapers. Finding a press is a complicated process, because the press has to be the right size for the pages, the press has to have time in its schedule to do the printing, and the plant needs to have enough newsprint on hand to do the job.
While Jack kept looking for a printing plant – even considering going out of state to print – our production editor, Joe Dziublenski; our paginator, Andrea Bondy; and I kept working to complete the pages. We wanted to make sure they were ready if we did find a printing plant.
It was such an unusual situation that The New York Times wrote a story about our plight.
About 8 p.m. Tuesday, we got the good news. Advance Media, which publishes the Star-Ledger, could handle our job. And around 11 p.m. we sent the pages to the printer with a final prayer that everything would turn out OK.
We didn’t know precisely when the pages would go on the press. So the newspaper may appear in your mailbox on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. It will look a little different from previous issues because we had to shrink our pages a bit to fit the Advance Media press.
But the newspaper will be in your hands for one last time.