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Bittersweet transition as the WNYCatholic prints last issue

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My great-grandfather worked for the Courier-Express in the same building I work in now. He was a printer by trade, so I have black ink in my veins.

As we begin work on our last print issue, I think of how much we have advanced in the 20 odd years I’ve been writing for the Western New York Catholic. (Some years have been odder than others.)

We used to print out each story separately on our black and white Xerox copier then paste them down on blue-lined printer sheets. All the ads would all be pasted separately. Many were reused month after month. We’d hand a stack of pages a half-inch thick to our printer on Friday, then Monday morning the final copy would be delivered. Looking at the printed paper was my favorite part of our cycle. Seeing the final product of our month’s work fresh from the presses gave a sense of closure to the stories I wrote. It’s now ready to be shared with the public.

Seeing the words on printed paper gave them a kind of value. Details of an event would not have to be shared through word of mouth with added embellishments in each telling. This was it. This is what happened. It’s there in black and white. Gutenberg’s printing press is said to have started the modern era of communication. Our paper was a part of that. We created factual consistent accounts of events that could be, and in my case would be, saved for future reference. No one would have to rely on memory or one person’s account of a story.

Behind my desk were decades of bound issues. I liked looking through them. I liked the sense of permanence on the printed page. It gave a sense of history. These events – the conventions, the Masses, the lives of the priests and sisters in the obituaries, the activities of the faithful – can continue to exist by being read.

I got in this game to be immortal. Like Twain, Hemingway and Thompson, my words preserved on paper would let future generations know that I had existed as much as they let people know that Holy Angels Academy and Bishop McLaughlin existed. People would know that 2.5 million people gathered for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, and I was there. I took pride when someone said, “I read it in the ‘Western New York Catholic.’”

Now we’re bringing the same passion and desire to a new format – the internet. Gutenberg started in 1600, the internet started in the 1980s, so “new” is a relative term. It’s a bittersweet transition. I’ll miss seeing the photos and stories in print, but we will be able to share video and slideshows. We will no longer be limited by column inches or deadlines. If something happens on Monday, you can read about on Tuesday, not a month and half later.

I’ll still be writing and I hope you will still read it, now exclusively at WNYCatholic.org. Check in often because it will update frequently. I’d hate for you to miss anything.

I wonder what my great-grandfather would think of this.

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