By: Jim Rosenberg
From paperboy to production chief, Rick Burman has devoted three-quarters of his life to seeing that readers receive his hometown paper.
The 45-year-old started and stayed at the 5,300-circulation evening daily in northern New York. As a carrier, he sometimes had the opportunity to help pull papers on Friday runs ? at 5,000 copies, then the longest in the hot-metal days, when production would have until Monday to fix any problem. He became a helper, then moved to full-time work in 1980.
As a young assistant circulation manager, Publisher Catherine Moore counted what Burman collected. Today, she calls him “talented, smart, loyal, and humble,” and possessing optimism, diligence, and “great problem-solving skills.”
Burman never accepted offers to move, even within Ogden Newspapers. Why leave, he asks, when he already lives where others vacation? He might once have felt otherwise. Not long after being hired full time, his predecessor retired, leaving him, with little training, to learn by trial and error. Take blankets, for instance: “I remember repacking the unit six times.”
Today, he continues, “that wouldn’t happen. There’s a lot more cooperation in our chain now.” Burman himself is Exhibit A. While he modestly mentions helping Ogden sites in Minnesota and Ohio, Moore says he’s actually also worked with crews at papers as distant as Florida and Hawaii.
That only happened because he learned on the fly, especially when he handled press installations himself, expanding the Goss Community from four to six and then seven units with a bigger folder. “Getting it to work” he says, was “probably the most satisfying thing.” It certainly made running process color a lot easier. Running four- color on four units “was miserable,” requiring about three hours a day to repeatedly clean ink fountains.
“Rick works magic,” says Moore, “making our job printers thrilled with the quality,” and the newspapers “pop with sharp, vivid color printing.” All that, and “he has kept our waste very low.”
“I don’t mind taking things apart,” says Burman, who learned the mechanics on the job. Once again, Moore sees more: “He embraces new technology but can keep old equipment going way past its expected life,” she says, citing everything from platemaking to bundling. On press, Burman ordinarily changes rolls himself: “The only thing I usually try to pawn off on other people is cleaning blankets. I’ve done that for so long.
“We do a fair amount of commercial work,” Burman adds, noting that volume varies by day. The heaviest, Wednesday, typically calls for the Enterprise (up to 16 pages) and its 28- or 32-page TV tab, Ogden’s own 24-inch weekly, The Lake Placid News, and three others’ weekly broadsheets, ranging from eight pages to a 34-inch 16- pager in one or two sections on 40-lb. stock that is “so labor-intensive because our imagesetter’s not wide enough,” requiring four pages with each color for each side, he says. “Every single one of these runs has four-up color,” he continues, adding, “I may be the foreman, but I do most of the runs myself.”
Except for the assistant foreman, other departments share the pressroom crew: one responsible for prepress preparation in editorial, and another working 30 hours per week as a delivery driver.
“Prepress is really the biggest issue for us,” says Burman, who, while noting his paper recently acquired a wider imagesetter, hopes to have the chance to output from computer to plate before retiring.
When that day comes, he adds, those who follow him into production management will find a familiar environment. “I think it will continue the same way,” he says. The industry “will try to do more with less,” especially in prepress.
Clearly, having Rick Burman at work is a plus. But what about working for him? Injuries? None, ever. Equipment is kept safe and employees trained and protected.
Learning? Always. “Direct, fair and firm,” in Moore’s words, Burman trained many, among them Ogden’s first female press operator ? whom he hired and for whom he built the platform that provided her the required reach.