Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hump Day Nerdgasm: Broken Dreams Edition

It's been almost 4 years since I last set foot in a newsroom or any tangential journalistic structure, so when I heard the Los Angeles Times was offering a free tour of its Olympic printing plant I was allllll over it.

Brace yourselves, friends. The nerd fumes in here are about to get more potent than usual.

The Olympic Plant is the largest newspaper printing facility in the country (the pressroom alone is 55,700 square feet).

ECHO . . . ECHo . . . ECho . . . Echo . . . echo

But here's where the sads come in for anyone who was, is, or aspires to be in the newspaper business: WHERE ARE ALL THE HUMANS?

We were here from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. That falls right in peak production hours, because all the papers going out the next morning are printed the night before. And, yeah, newspapers WERE flying by on all sides. But all this action was overseen by a skeleton crew. I asked our tour guide later that night if the production side of the business had experienced as many layoffs as the editorial side in recent years, and he said this production facility in particular has only about 200 staff left . . . out of 500.

OK. Time for something happy now. And what could be happier than ROBOTS? Robots that shuttle 2,400-pound rolls of paper around (a job that humans probably used to do, but let's not think about that right now). YAY, ROBOTS!

Staff: "Oh noes! We're almost out of paper."

"Here I come still."

The printing presses burn through about 300 gigantor rolls of paper in a 24-hour period. So WHERE do they keep all that paper?

Jenny found it! Thanks, Jenny!

Each roll of recycled paper costs the Times $600.

This is the machine that makes all those tidy columns.

It's gone rogue! NO ONE IS SAFE.

At one point, we were all herded into a freight elevator. And just when Jenny and I were looking at each other and thinking, "This is the part where we find out the tour was just an elaborate excuse to get us here so they can harvest our organs," we saw THIS on the wall:

Not to worry. The freight elevator was just taking us to the printing presses.

Now, I've been watching a lot of Firefly lately, AND our guide called the printing plant the Death Star of News at the very start of the tour . . . so it's only natural that I should pretend to be in a spaceship for the duration. And THIS part was the most spaceshippy of all.

Can't you picture River Tam tucked up against the railing?

Only three of the people in this picture work here. Don't get too excited.

We ended the tour in the distribution center and were once again reminded that barely any humans are employed here.


Automated machines as far as the eye can see.

So next month is the tour of the editorial building in Downtown Los Angeles. Those pictures are certain to feature lots and lots of empty desks. So look forward to THAT.


  1. *looks forward to empty desks*

    That seems kind of mean, though, Megs. I mean GEEEEEEZ. Have some compassion, damnit.

    For reals, this is neato. Especially the robot with the eyes. I automatically like things with big eyes! ('cept this fella:

    Anyway....YAY NEWSPAPER.

  2. During my last internship before I graduated, I worked at a very recently layed-off person's desk. My heart is past all caring. Now I'm a cynical old coot.

    I think that big-eyed thing is looking into my soul.

  3. Welp, at least they've solved the *robot* unemployment problems... I'm glad about that. I also enjoy the robot with the eyes! But because I like things that have faces that shouldn't necessarily have faces, like this advert over here where there's all this food with faces and arms and legs and stuff and it's totally cute and ok I'm quiet now...

  4. You would think that they would go out and hire some people to stand around randomly and look busy... You know, just for good PR.

    I love taking tours of things, so I would have been pumped to see this. There's this historic house down the street from me that only gives tours by appointment, and I reaaaally want to go tour it. But I need to force some friends to go with me, because, you know, nothing's sadder than booking a tour for one.


    P.S. *I* will tour that old house with you. Be there in a jiffy.

  6. This is the beginning of the robot apocalypse...I can feel their oversized eyes watching, waiting for just the right moment.

    FOOD with faces and arms and legs?! You Brits are crazy.

  7. This would be funnier/sadder if those fake employees were animatronics

  8. This is SO COOL! This entry was like "mister rodgers" + "how it's made" and I nodded off in interest - all was going well and I couldn't believe that recycled paper cost $600 and then my train of thought derailed when you mentioned River Tam tucked up against the railing. Then I nodded off dreaming...

  9. THE PAPER IS SO EXPENSIVE. Our guide said paper is the biggest expense next to paying the staff, which seems to make a pretty good argument for going 100% digital...but then there would be 200 MORE people out of work. This is the dilemma.

  10. THAT IS CRAY-CRAY. The LA Times is not exactly a teensy village paper. How sad it's so empty. I am SUPER excited to see pics of the tour of the editorial building. I hope your tour guide is a fast-talking His Girl Friday type.

  11. I KNOW. The guide said they opened it up for filming for the first time (for Green Hornet) because they need the money so badly. It's a sad state of affairs.

    I THINK we're getting the same tour guide for the editorial building, which is good...but he's no fast-talking, spunky newslady. I CERTAINLY plan on annoying all the employees by taking thousands of pictures. "Quick, everyone pretend there's breaking news!"