Full-color mess

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With their hands dipped in ink or touching ink-covered equipment half the day, The Augusta Chronicle pressmen's arms and uniforms are perpetually black, with a tinge of yellow.

The 10 presses, each with hundreds of moving parts, need constant maintenance to keep the daily newspaper printing quickly, efficiently and, most important, on deadline.

"The oil and ink are what make the job nasty," press supervisor George Pearson said as he rubbed his hands on his jeans at the same spot as hundreds of times before, adding to the dark stains on each side of his lower hips.

Although the ink is soybean-based and relatively easy to wash, there is so much of it that it's nearly impossible to get all of the nontoxic liquid off.

"When I met my wife, she swore up and down she could get it off me. Now she doesn't even try," Mr. Pearson said.

Joe Battle, the maintenance and press manager, said it's just the nature of the job.

"No matter how much you wash, it gets everywhere, and it comes off on the sheets. Black is the worst to get off," he said.

Mr. Pearson spends most of his Monday afternoons in the "doghouse," the area underneath the presses where a worker can gain access to the ink rollers for servicing. On this occasion, he is changing out the yellow ink rollers and giving the area a general clean-up.

The presses run four colors when printing a color page: cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black. The combination is referred to as CMYK. Each color's rollers (up to eight) need to be cleaned on a weekly basis and sprayed with air to keep newsprint dust from clogging the system. When rollers get worn, they are replaced.

The job is not only dirty, it's also dangerous. Mr. Battle lost a thumb when it was caught in the paper delivery system. He was lucky to have it reattached.

In his 14 years on the job, Mr. Pearson has seen his fair share of accidents.

"People have gotten stuck in the presses," he said. "Shirts' tails have been caught and tore off. We have to tuck in our shirts now. I also cut the tip of my finger real bad; it was flapping."

Safety is the No. 1 priority, but with so many moving parts, accidents can happen.

"There's so many things in the pressroom that can bite you so quick," he said.

Even so, Mr. Pearson says, printing has gotten into his blood.

"I like that pressure of meeting tight deadlines and I like 100,000 people looking at what you do. It's fun."

BY THE NUMBERS

8


Newspapers printed per second


96


Pages the press units can print at the same time


600


Total horsepower of the 10 press


1,568


Weight, in pounds of a roll of newsprint paper


27,000


Pounds of black and color ink used in a month


1 million


Cost, in dollars, or each new press unit


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