In the early hours of a typical Friday morning, the Orient staff emails PDF files of the paper to a Brunswick printer. A few hours later, printed newspapers appear in buildings across campus. In between, the intricate art of newspaper printing unfolds just a few miles from Bowdoin. 
Dick Lancaster, sales manager at Alliance Press, has been in the newspaper-printing business for nearly 30 years. His company was already printing weekly editions of the Orient when he joined in the mid-1980s.

The physical printing process relies on both old and new technology. Once the Orient sends completed designs to Alliance Press, pre-press employees check that the files are sized and formatted properly. 

“No RGB images. [We use] CMYK,” Lancaster said. “[Then] they’ll paginate it and put it in the correct order for sixteen pages.”

Order is especially important because the printing press is configured to only print certain pages in color. All images that appear in the Orient are combinations of just a few colors of ink. 
“You have four different inkwells. You have yellow, magenta, black and cyan,” Lancaster said. ”You [put] your colors all on [pages] one, eight, nine and 16. If you wanted more color, it would go on two, seven, 10 and 15.” 

Once the employees have ensured that the paper is in proper order, they use a special printer to burn the design directly onto metal plates. They then bend the plates to fit into the printing press.

When it’s finally time to print the paper, an operator switches the printing press on. Sheets of newsprint pass through the machine, picking up ink as they come into contact with the metal plates. The machine then cuts and folds the sheets so that they come out the other end looking like typical newspapers. 

Alliance Press has multiple printing presses, so they can print up to three publications simultaneously. The quickest of these presses prints 15,000 papers per hour. For a publication like the Orient, which prints roughly 1,600 copies, the process is relatively short. 
“Once we’re up and running, it probably takes 15, 20 minutes, to print the [Orient],” Lancaster said. 

The Orient typically prints at around 8 a.m. Since pressroom employees work in three shifts, the printing facilities are well-populated no matter the time of day.

While printing presses themselves haven’t changed much since Lancaster first entered the printing business, the advent of computers has substantially affected the industry. 
Before email existed, the Orient staff would paste words and images onto physical boards, which they would deliver to the press room. Printing employees would then take pictures of the boards and use their negatives to develop the metal plates. 

“You’d go into the dark room. You’d put the boards on the camera. You’d shoot the camera,” Lancaster said. “The negatives would be burned on the plates.”

While technology has made the printing process more convenient, it has also impacted the nature of Lancaster’s job. 

”Everything pretty much comes to us in InDesign PDF files now,” he said. “As a salesman, I would be driving five to six hundred miles a week, going to different locations, picking up boards and bringing them back to print. I don’t go anywhere anymore.”

But despite technological advancements, the physical printing process isn’t perfect. Lancaster noted that in printing the Orient, Alliance Press will typically waste 300 to 500 copies because sheets weren’t aligned properly. He added that the staff recycles these wasted copies.
“Everything we do here, we recycle,” he said. “All of our newsprint is post-consumer recycled newsprint.”

Lancaster said that printing the Orient has typically been a fairly smooth process. He did note, however, that the Occident, the satirical version of the Orient published the last week of each year, once caused problems. 

“It was a little over the top, and a couple of employees were offended by it,” he said. “[But] that was a long time ago.” 

For Lancaster, printing the Orient helps him stay connected to Bowdoin, where he occasionally works as a bartender for campus events. His grandfather—for whom Lancaster Lounge is named—was a member of the Bowdoin class of 1927, and his mother also worked at the College. 

Alliance Press headquarters are located in Brunswick, only a few miles from Bowdoin’s campus. Despite the small-town location, the company not only prints the Orient but also many other publications, including the Times Record, the Bangor Daily News and student newspapers from the University of Maine-Orono, the University of Southern Maine and Colby.

While Lancaster isn’t usually mentioned in the headlines that his company prints, he nonetheless takes pride in the work.

“This is kind of like meat and potatoes. This is the bottom line basic newsprint color printing,” he said. “We have a really good niche here in the state of Maine.”