The graphic communication (GrC) department at Cal Poly recently unveiled an improved printing lab on campus — the Dow Jones and Company Web Printing Laboratory.

An improved printing lab, complete with an eight-unit Web publication press, was unveiled in January. Courtesy photo.

Though the lab was installed over the summer and has been used since then, the department took “Printing Week”— an annual event hosted by GrC in January — as an opportunity to dedicate and present the new facility, said Harvey Levenson, graphic communication department head and interim chair of the journalism department.

The new lab features an eight-unit Web publication press, and has enabled the printing facility to double page count and color capacity, Levenson said.

“We have a printing facility now that is second to none in an educational setting … it’s the perfect embodiment of Cal Poly’s ‘Learn by Doing’ philosophy,” Levenson said.

Sarah Nowlen has ample experience in this motto — especially when it comes to the new press. Nowlen is the Web offset production manager for University Graphic Systems (UGS), Cal Poly’s student-run printing facility.

“I run the press to produce the Mustang Daily and any other jobs we get for newspaper-like publications,” Nowlen said. “It’s been an experience … the new press is similar to the old one, but definitely not the same. At the beginning there was a learning curve as we tried to fine tune the press to suit our needs.”

With help from professionals and department faculty, Nowlen said the press has been modified to perform efficiently. The Mustang Daily benefits most from the new press because the color range is much greater and page count can be higher.

Levenson said the press upgrade was undertaken exclusively for the journalism department.

Paul Bittick, general manager of the Mustang Daily, approached Levenson more than a year ago about the prospect of improving color capacity and page number, Levenson said.

“Paul was confident making those improvements would make the paper more appealing, especially to advertisers,” Levenson said. “I was happy to do what I could to help, so I began contacting people I knew in industry to assist with the upgrades via donations.”

The added capabilities of the updated press have been beneficial to the Mustang Daily, Bittick said.

“Having more color capacity does not necessarily mean we are surely selling more ads,” Bittick said. “The appeal comes from the flexibility we now have — we can offer more color ads, there are more options for advertisers and that’s the real draw.”

Levenson estimated the Dow Jones and Company Web Printing Laboratory involved about $500,000 upgrade, he said. The Dow Jones Foundation came forward first to help and provided Cal Poly with a grant of $110,000 to begin the project. What Levenson referred to as “the snowball effect” occurred next — other companies like Baldwin Technologies, QuadTech, MEGTEC, Kodak, Fujifilm and Trelleborg came forward to supplement Dow Jones’ donation.

“Few companies want to be first, but when they see a major player make a contribution they are much more likely to contribute as well,” Levenson said.

Part of the allure for donors is one of the only areas in which newspaper circulation is not in decline is on college campuses, Levenson said. This allows Cal Poly to experiment and become a model for other institutions.

“There will always be a need for newspapers in one sense or another,” Levenson said. “Cal Poly has the opportunity to be a leader … to accept the premise that newspapers are changing and that a new model can revive them.

“In the coming months and years we expect to make the newspaper more interactive … less of a ‘read what we tell you’ experience.”

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