“Where’s Joe?” I asked publisher Marty Weybret.
“I don’t know. He usually doesn’t come in until later,” Marty responded.
My palms were getting moist.
It was 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday. We had 20 students and their teachers at the News-Sentinel for a tour and press run.
This was to be the night when the students would see their own publication, The Mokelumne Current, roll off the presses.
And the press foreman, Joe Mistretta, was not even in the pressroom.
We’d planned this for weeks. I had imagined the papers flowing through the great presses into the eager hands of the freshly minted journalists.
This was to be the culmination, the grand finale, the crowning glory.
This was chaos.
We’d started discussing all this last year. Kathy Grant, the city’s watershed education coordinator, had a scheme: Why not get kids to be journalists and produce something about the river? She’d work on a grant, she said.
Fine, we said. And figured that was the end of it.
But Kathy, I’ve come to learn, is not just ultra-creative, but relentless. Somehow, she secured a grant for the project.
She also found two uncommonly talented Lodi teachers, Janine Jacinto of Heritage and Kim Hutson of Vinewood, who were gung-ho.
Rather hastily, we cooked up a program. We’d hold sessions and talk with the students about writing lead grafs and getting quotes and snapping good photos. We’d check on their work, pull it into a cohesive publication, then invite everyone in for a tour and press night.
Senior editor Maggie Creamer, Lodi Living Editor Sara Jane Pohlman and Photo Chief Dan Evans delivered the journalistic lessons. Kyla Cathey, our news editor, crafted the work into a nifty 6-page package.
And now, the students and their devoted teachers were here to witness their publication being printed before their eyes.
The students were pumped up, eyes bright, bouncing with energy.
But where was that darn Joe? Marty could keep everybody busy with his tour of the paper for a half-hour or so. Then the magic was needed. I scanned the parking lot. No Joe. I went into the composing room. Nope.
As I rushed through the plate room, I heard something rustling in the adjacent locker room.
I swung open the door.
There was Joe, buttoning up his work coveralls.
I wanted to hug the man. “You are here,” I said.
“Yeah,” Joe said, absolutely unruffled. “What’s up?”
Joe had it all under control, and I should have known that. He is the press guy’s press guy.
He’d done much of the prep work the night before. His crew was due in 15 minutes. Another 10, and Marty would be done with the tour, the delegation would be in the press room, and The Mokelumne Current would roll.
And that’s just what happened. The students gathered at the front of the Goss Community press. They bubbled with questions for Marty and Joe.
Then, a warning bell sounded. The happy chatter stopped.
Like some ink-fueled locomotive, the presses groaned to life.
A continuous sheet of paper began pulling through the press, slowly at first, then quickly, then furiously.
The printed words and images rushed right toward the young people who had created them.
Joe pulled copies of The Mokelumne Current off the press and starting handing them out. The students held their work in their hands and were giddy.
For a few moments, it felt like Christmas morning in the basement of the Lodi News-Sentinel.
As a newspaper editor, work brings deadlines and critiques and apologies for misspellings.
On Wednesday night, there was also joy.
Richard Hanner is the editor of the Lodi News-Sentinel.