As the world’s largest technology manufacturers increasingly move toward creating products that are designed to be difficult or impossible to repair, Motherboard has started looking toward the margins of tech to find the people keeping older machines alive and running.

In the first episode of State of Repair, we visited the New York Times printing plant to meet Greg Zerafa, Jerry Greaney, and Chris Bedetto, who are part of a dying breed of machinists that keeps the newspaper’s eight three-story printing presses humming and spitting out hundreds of thousands of newspapers every single day.

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noise of the press running it's like music to your ears it's got a lot of bass to it you could feel it in your chest you know it definitely goes through you and you hear the iron banging on banging on floor shaking and everything I mean get all that steel moving it's pretty cool we had it so many times when something is wrong we can hear it as well you better shut this thing down is from the blower printing presses are they enamel of their order very tricky to deal words every has to be perfect a lot of people don't realize how much tolerance tools and some of these orders that we have to say you have to be exact we would call ourselves maintenance personnel impairment with machinist we live in a disposable society when our technology breaks we replace it but the art of repair is still practiced on the margins of our tech obsessed culture we went to the New York Times printing plant in Queens to meet the dying breed of repair men who make sure the machines keep pumping out hundreds of thousands of newspapers every day this is the pressroom machine shop in College Point New York at the New York Times printed facility we print close to 300,000 copies every night and on the weekend it's close to a million copies greg zurafa 20 years here at the times Kris Madero 33 years of service Jerry granny tell you one years I would say the majority the equipment in the entire building is mid 90s early to mid 90s when this facility was built the press for about 20 years all 20 years old as a mechanical repair person or maintenance person I would rather work on an older piece of equipment than her new a piece of equipment because a lot of stuff on the newer ends is electronic driven mechanical stuffs more reliable and it is I mean electronic stuff is junk the advanced equipment sometimes it won't run you keep turning on and off how many times and next thing you know what's working two hours later you got Ange apart where was that you know you would rather walk to a piece of equipment and see like a big shaft snapped in half because you know you could fix it finding parts for some of the existing equipment has gotten to be a little challenging malefactors gonna manufactures going out of business we've gone to ebay to Amazon for certain components that that are just obsolete and when we find them we do purchase them the amount you really have to know you got through a guy and the it's insane the attention to detail you might think oh you take one gear off you put another gear on you're talking you know thousands of an inch in measurements of alignment pin registration probably one of the most crucial settings on the press there's a built-in offset and where the pins are located the pins at the bottom are in a few thousandths of an inch to eight thousandths of an inch on the outside pin it's critical that everything is done as close as possible if you're off a little here you're here and you keep adding it up it just fills most people won't pick up the flaws that we can see in the newspaper except the most obvious ones it is real bloody the most common flaws in a newspaper would be press markings coming off the folder Inco offset registration defects where the images are blurred ghost thing anytime something goes wrong you work like friggin maniac to fix it you think it's like a fire and you got to get it done in five minutes and you train that way you're trained that way I try to get it fixed even if we got to put a bandaid on it that it gets through tonight until that press is back up and running or that piece of equipment is back up and running it's you know you had you do have that adrenaline flow 100% right now we got a call out to 43 9 and the problem they're saying is we have no psi some of the problem problems that could occur are no vsi motor and right now we're gonna go in there and take a look and see what we got the worst job depends on who you ask I mean I think a b-level vsi motor because there's only a handful of guys that could squeeze in there probably Austria what part of that handful it's just a tight area and you have to pretty much balance and be able to you know work your way into that spot and basically hold up a 150 or 60 pound motor with one hand while turning a wrench with the other while balancing on a ladder a ladder or a beam on the top step okay if you look at your pay you wouldn't get in there but we get in there get it it's tight this is a variable-speed inker motor and what this does is it distributes ink evenly across the ink train and and so that travels up the cylinder this is um magenta it's tight you gotta just find the right spot with your wrench I know I've got it in here before with this like I got it I think I got it one of the worst jobs as well as for your elbow deep into ink when something goes wrong behind the impacts when you gotta get in there there's no way of getting in there except putting your hands in there that doesn't watch you're making it dark ink is black gold this is saying that we use when if you're covered in ink I mean that means you're doing a job and if you're doing a job usually taking a long time if you covered that much in ink that means you're making money the other part of that as well is it a day without ink is like a day without sunshine I love having clean hands you know does it I like making money but I like having clean hands killing me this is about a 70 pound in fact just sick it up that's it guys easy day when I see someone reading the New York Times or buy in the New York Times or having a copy to New York Times with them there's a sense of pride in that because you know there's only a handful of people that really know what goes on behind the scenes to get that paper to that reader but depresses printing going down there's not as many paper houses out there so not many people being taught how to do our job the extent that were a dying breed we just went through a major loss of talent you know guys retiring and I mean just and now we got new guys coming in and not to be mean but their time frame is cut short they got to learn they got a pictus up quick see the shit-or-get-off-the-pot who's gonna take them a long time to get the experience that we have is this building is huge from all the different machines and you picked up tricks of the trade for more videos I can teach you everything that I know in their five minutes I believe two-way newspapers are closing around the country that eventually all newspapers will broadens out of business but I think the New York Times will be here for another 15 years everybody sees the writing on the wall and everybody but I still think if you're gonna work for a newspaper this is the one that work for a textile it's gonna be the last one standing I think of another newspaper in New York and it's a book on a comic book people think I could post in the old ones of my comic books to me nothing comes close nothing impressive anymore nothing we got the best look of paper out there it is that's what can paper out there we always joke I'll hold the door you know open for the last person to walk out you know everybody here likes what they do think we're gonna work here to a place shuts down I hope so

43 thoughts on “Meet the Machinists Who Keep the New York Times Running

  1. Despite living in a disposable society, the art of repair is still practiced on the margins of our tech obsessed culture. We went to the New York Times printing plant in Queens to meet the dying breed of repairmen who fix older machines.

  2. A big problem for all American manufacturing is the loss of the skilled work force through retirement or attrition (layoffs, plant closures). It take years for a SKILLED guy years to become very good at these repairs. And when those older guys retire, if the company owners and management has been sleeping and just taking profits, and not hiring and training, they quickly realize how critical those guys were to their profit margins. Nothing works without the guys that can keep those machines running.
    If companies don't train the new generation, they'll have extreme problems, and the hardest part is actually finding people who can SHOW UP for work, READ, and COMMUNICATE, and not have pissy attitude issues all the time. No one wants employees who are NOT there to work. It's called work, not play. We have good young candidates where we work, but I've had to try and train the lazy guys too. Least effort does not go unnoticed.

  3. I would be nervous ig i had to startn working there i mean i am currently studying to become a Machinist but how on earth would i start working there i wouldnt know how any of it works, looks exciting

  4. I was a press operator at the Hareld Star news paper here in Steubenville Ohio. There presses are Veary old. But I loved it and would still be there if it didint pay $7.25 hr. Small town but it was great.

  5. I thought machinist make parts from metal via milling and lathes etc.
    This seems more of a mechanics role.
    Can someone explain? I'm confused.

  6. Cool story! It reminds me of my own story. I’v owned my own HVAC business for 25 years and I haven’t had a chance to work on equipment for the last 15 years. A few years ago we hired a new kid and he’s been learning from the other techs. In the last few months he and I have been talking more and I’v gotten to know him better. As I’m getting older I’m finding that I need less of everything including money. Anyways I decided I’d take the kid under my wing and started going on service calls with him to pass on the knowledge that he needs and I just don’t use anymore since I’m running a business and and not working out in the field anymore. What I found out is that I really enjoy being a technician and passing on knowledge to the next generation. Funny the way life has come full circle.

  7. Talk about brain washed. One man used the word "repair person". NO. They are repair MEN. Did you see any women smeared with grease and ink in this video? Just like the NYT, more political correctness.

  8. If ever a documentary could be perfect, this one is. (I was a newspaper staff artist on a daily, from 1973-6, starting in the "hot metal days" and up til the first phases of computer-driven "cool type" production.) The pressmen are so wonderful, and so skillful. (And yes, they are almost all men, since the upper body strength required when something goes wrong is huge). And yes, I am a diehard feminist, and indeed broke a few barriers back then at the start of my career).

  9. I spent 10 years in middle school, high school, and college working on a freightliner with my dad. There's a real beauty and zen to fixing a machine that big and complicated. And that one guy's comment about it taking years to get to any kind of real understanding for what's what, could not be more true.

  10. I used to print the New York Times West coast at the Contra Costa Times. I started out on a Goss Metroliner (No Mercy Press), but had the pleasure of running a Colorliner. This brought back dirty, noisy memories.

  11. ah yes . . . the propaganda center that pushes garbage that will eventually drive my industry (manufacturing) extinct. . I absolutely loath NYT and their marxist bullshit.
    Nice try though. . . .
    also do you guys really need those high capacity fully automatic printing presses? This isn't what the founders envisioned when the constitution was written – NYT's logic

  12. My job is very similar to this, I run around a facility repairing old machines to keep them operating and making the company money as well as fabricate parts and modify them. I know exactly what that pressure to get something running as fast as possible is like as well as being elbow deep in grease.

  13. Aint nothing like working in a big ole web pressroom. Like working next to a running train for 12 hours on end. Loud, greasy, dirty, dusty and mad. I doubt most folk with a degree writing yellow journalism could hack it or even become a pressman.

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