Can you imagine not only reporting and editing a college newspaper, but also printing it on a machine that requires each letter to be manually placed in a matrix? That was the case for editor Roy Brophy when former Cal Poly President Robert Kennedy came to the university in 1940 as adviser of the California Polytechnic. And there wasn’t even a journalism major yet.
Kennedy knew a little about printing, but said he was “no printer.” In response to that claim, he was told, “Some of the students will teach you everything you need to know.”
The original letterpress sat in a hole in the ground, which has since been filled with sand and plastered over. Brian Lawler, a graphic communications professor, started printing the Mustang in 1969 on that press. Three nights a week, a team of eight to 12 students would lay the type in steel frames, make up the advertisements on stereotype plates, scale photographs to exact size and lock everything up. The resulting form for one side of a full size newspaper page would weigh between 200 and 300 pounds.
Jim Hayes was the Mustang’s advisor at the time.
“The first (press) we had sounded like a galloping jackass,” he said. With more than 1800 moving parts, something went wrong almost every night, Lawler remembers.
The next press, the News King, used plates and photographic processing, similar to the one the Mustang Daily is printed on today.
“We used to affectionately call the News King Press the Waste King,” Lawler said. The Waste King was the name of a garbage disposal. Despite this nickname, Lawler said the press was good in its day. It printed better quality, faster and, for the first time, in color.
Even with the tedious tasks of laying out letter by letter, the Mustang has had few setbacks. Including the time the whole electrical system went up in smoke.
“Otherwise the Mustang has come out on schedule everyday in its life.It always gets done somehow,” Lawler said.