Jeff Wallace

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Aiken Standard is observing National Newspaper Week with a series of guest columns.

When I think of newspapers, I think of the pressroom.

Closing my eyes, I can smell the musty fragrance of newsprint, the paper that comes in 800-pound rolls and is fed into the press. The odor of ink that arrives in 55-gallon drums also tweaks my nose.

It’s in the pressroom that the product that so many have worked on for so long finally becomes a reality. The computer-screen images of individual pages join to become a single entity – the daily newspaper.

The clatter of the machinery revving up creates anticipation. Watching webs of paper become imprinted with words and pictures is exciting. Seeing the bands of paper gather and then watching them cut into individual newspapers is transfixing. Realizing that each one of those papers will wind up in someone’s living room is exhilarating.

And as much as I love the sights, sounds and smells of the pressroom, it is the content of that newspaper that I’ve always found most important.

It’s about the news. From my early days of growing up in Aiken, newspapers have been a large part of my world. There were times when my family got four newspapers delivered to the front yard. There was, of course, the Aiken Standard, but we also got two newspapers from Augusta and one from Columbia.

In days long before the internet and 24/7 coverage of news, weather and sports, the newspaper was where we got all of our important information. I couldn’t wait to be the first one out of the door to pick up a morning paper and find out the score of the Pirates’ game from the previous night. Then I was eager to share the information with my family. Maybe that was where my love of the news started.

Today there is a different world of news. TV channels fill us with everything we wanted to know, and lots we didn’t, of the happenings in the world. The lines between news and commentary are often blurred, and sometimes there is no blurriness because there is no line.

The local newspaper, however, provides the basic, essential information for people living in a community. It tells stories of the people who make decisions, of the groups that work to make the community better, of the people who succeed and some who fail.

In the pages of the local newspaper we learn about crime and punishment, about politics and government, about fires and floods, about friends and families. It is our microscope into what is happening in Aiken and Aiken County.

Today many people receive their news via cell phones, tablets and computers. Without the benefit of paper that can get saturated with water and ink that sometimes bleeds onto fingers, they see updates throughout the day and can access the information from almost anywhere.

The Aiken Standard, your community newspaper, affords folks with that as well as the opportunity to see the day’s actual newspaper online in an electronic version. It doesn’t matter if one is on her front porch in Montmorenci or at a hotel in Seattle, the daily news of Aiken is readily accessed.

I check the Aiken Standard online several times each day, but it is the casual read in my favorite chair with the feel of paper between my fingers and the smell of ink in my nostrils that I prefer. Newspapers are changing, as is the rest of the world, but to me they will always revolve around the pressroom.

Jeff Wallace is a retired editor of the Aiken Standard.