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Talon Marks reunion

July 9, 2006

Last night was the big 50th anniversary Talon Marks reunion. What at hot time (literally for a while there)!

reunion sceneIt was so great to see some 50 or 60 current and former Talon Marks staffers and their families join us for the evening. It was a thrill to talk to so many of them and see how their lives were affected by their long hours at the Talon Marks. Some were my former students, but the vast majority were from Tom Nelson’s days. After all, he was here for 26 years and I’m only on my nineth.

Many remarked on how the newsroom was the same, but different. We lost the horseshoe copyediting table*, the darkroom* and the clocks of the world, but we’ve added computers* and the online publication.* Offices have changed a bit, but many were seen pointing to this corner and that corner and saying, “That’s where my desk was.” (*See comments for additional storyline)

reunion sceneMy favorite story of the evening came from Lauren Rodriguez, who is now at KTLA-TV after getting her bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA. She says that because of her degree she is asked to copyedit a lot of the stories at the TV station, but that it is not her English degree that helps her, but the Dirty Dozen list that she learned at the Talon Marks.

Biggest glitch of the evening: Campus Facilities forgot to program the air conditioning to stay on for the event and the Student Center became a hothouse the hour before dinner. It took a while for the AC to kick in with any effect once we got things turned back on.

Also loved the video of memories that Amara put together.

We started a database of contacts and created a set of alumni scholarships and we’re already starting to plan a renunion picnic for next summer.

Biggest disappointment: We were still getting contact information the day of the reunion. Would love to have had the info earlier so that those individuals could have planned to be there last night, too.

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5 comments

  1. What happened to the horseshoe table?

    If it has been a while since you were here, one of the first things you’ll notice as missing is the horseshoe copy-editing style table in the front of the room.

    While the quaint table added a great deal of charm to the Talon Marks lab, with a lab of computers on its way in 1999 it was removed to allow for a more efficient use of the room.

    You’ll be relieved to know that the old lady did not go quietly. Her legs were cemented into the floor. The school had to bring in a welder and cut the legs at floor level to remove her.

    Today all the computers are networked with a local area network and editors can sit at any computer in the room and edit stories written on another computer. Pages are paginated on computer and moved from computer to computer with clicks of the mouse.


  2. The partioned offices in Talon Marks

    Being assigned an editor’s office is still a status symbol among today’s staff members. Here is a memory shared by John Van Gaston about the offices.

    – – – – – – – – –

    When I first joined the Talon Marks staff in the Fall of 1983, I was immediately intimidated by the people who already knew the daily workings of a newspaper. Their comfort with the newsroom and all it encompassed just added to my uncertainty as to why I was there and what I was supposed to do while there. I was introduced to the world of TM by a co-worker at the time, Mike Heinrich, who was the sports editor back then. He brought me into the newsroom and introduced me to C. Thomas Nelson, affectionately known as “Chief” to those with experience on staff. At least that’s how it seemed to me. It was a staff that knew what they were doing and their work ethic showed it. It was a huge deal to be an editor because they had authority and were in complete control of their page. What turned out to be a huge perk to having one of the main editor positions was a small cubicle that was referred to as their “office”.

    The offices were usually reserved for page editors including the chief photographer, who had a connecting passage from their office to the dark room. The passage was intended to transfer rolls of film (remember film?) and developed photos back and forth, but eventually was relegated to transferring everything from personal notes to lunches to anything else that came to the mind of creative young journalists.

    In my first semester I didn’t get the luxury of an office, but was appointed the Assistant Sports Editor within the first three weeks of my joining the staff. But by the next semester, I was promoted to Sports Editor and with it came the status of having my own office. Granted, it was very small, but it made me feel as though I had extra responsibilities and maybe even a little clout. It came equipped with a desk, a wobbly chair and three walls to decorate it to fit my personality. Strangely enough, most of us who had offices were able to get three to four people in there with relative ease to hold meetings and converge during staff meetings.

    The proximity of the offices allowed for some interesting conversations during staff meetings and in class. Of course they were not within earshot of Chief, who was busy slicing up the latest edition of TM. Usually the conversations varied from the content of Talon Marks, to that day’s sports section in various local newspapers to the latest pinup picture that made its way onto one of my walls. More times than not, it revolved around publicity stills of actresses we received in the mail from promotional packages of upcoming movies. There were some real dogfights over who would get what picture to post to their wall.

    One photo that caused quite a stir was one of video vixen Hope North, who appeared in the David Lee Roth video “California Girls”. North went on to become Miss Cowboy USA in 1987 and Miss California Beauty in 1989 and appeared in some movies. It was discovered that Miss North was signing photos at an Orange County record story and you can guess that one was to be had in order to add to the office wall. Trust me, it stirred up some conversations.

    But photos were not the only thing that adorned the office walls. Being that we spent a lot of our free time in the newsroom, we decided sometimes it was necessary to “redecorate”. On more than one occasion, a page editor would go to their office only to find that their desk had been moved to face another wall or was removed altogether and moved into either the photo lab or the darkroom. Other times, bad chairs were replaced with better ones – unaware to the person who sat in the wobbly chair and had it fall out from underneath them. It also wasn’t uncommon for someone to go into their office only to find some unflattering photo or text waxed (yes, we used wax machines back then) and affixed to their wall.

    All in all, the experience of having an office was highly regarded and helped provide some of the more memorable moments to my experiences on Talon Marks. If you only knew what happened on production nights back in those days…


  3. Talon Marks computers

    Like many other college papers, the Talon Marks started using computers to produce the newspaper in the mid-1990s. By 1997 preliminary pagination was underway with Pagemaker software.

    In 1997 the department was awarded a $75,000 technology grant by the college to purchase 20 G3 Macintosh computers for use in newswriting and newspaper classes.

    In 1998 the Talon Marks room was wired with Ethernet cables to connect with the Internet and to facilitate a local area network for pagination and printing.

    In 2005 the 20 G3 computers, many of them starting to fail, were replaced by the college with 21 G5 flat screen Macintosh computers and a new G5 server computer. New tables (errr, workstations) and chairs were purchased at the same time.

    The college has committed to a five-year replacement plan for computers, a move it is implementing in all campus computer labs.

    Students use Microsoft Word, Adobe Pagemaker and Adobe InDesign software for


  4. The darkroom

    The Talon Marks darkroom once housed 12 enlarger stations, but was decommissioned in 1998 when the paper switched to color film with off-campus processing. First flatbed scanners and then negative scanners were used to digitize images for the paper. The old copy camera in the darkroom was surplused and most enlargers (and the film drying cabinet) were ceded to the Photo Department. By 2000 the newspaper was converting exclusively to digital cameras to accommodate the online publication and pagination used for the print edition. The darkroom became an over-sized storage closet.

    Forgive our construction mess in the back rooms. This summer the old darkroom sink was removed and the darkroom is being converted into a lunch room/editors’ meeting room. New lights and carpet will be installed later this summer.

    The left-hand side back room was used for paste-up until 2004 when the Talon Marks started delivering paginated pages to the printer electronically. This room, which became a workroom and extended morgue room, will be ceded to the Photo Department this summer and converted into a digital photo computer lab.


  5. The online publication

    The talonmarks.com publication was started in Spring 1999 using raw HTML code. Shortly thereafter the staff moved to Dreamweaver software to design web pages.

    But that all changed in 2000 when content management software for college newspapers came along. The Talon Marks was one of the first community college papers in the country to sign with College Publisher, the leading third-party content management vendors for college publications.

    What this meant was that students did not necessarily know HyperText Markup Language (HTML) to contribute to the online publication.

    In fact, today, students routinely submit their assignments from home through the Internet to the College Publisher site. Editors can edit from anywhere in the world and approve content for going online. When the print edition is put together, the College Publisher site is where page editors grab written content.

    In 2005-06 the publication started experimenting with video and blogging. Podcasting experiments are underway as well.



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