Century-old French newspaper goes for linotype instead of digital

French newspaper Le Democrate de I’Aisne was founded 1906 by Pascal Ceccaldi, a Corcican who was elected to the parliament representing the town of Vervins. The newspaper has been known for its age-old tradition in its format and outlook, because it maintains the lineage of rotary press for century. So sadly the newspaper’s rotary press from 1927 broke down recently! It did bother them, but they don’t give up. They go for linotype, instead of going digital.

At Le Democrate de I’Aisne, Jenny Braconnier, a 21-year-old linotype expert, and four other colleagues are now behind the team handling the machine, which is a technology most newspapers had abandoned decades ago. The four-page broadsheet weekly, which bills itself ‘100 percent lead, zero percent web’ normally covers local farming scenes along with timely concerns like trends in New Year’s greeting cards and such topics of common interest among common people.

What it considers as ‘value of tradition’ at Le Democrate de I’Aisne is the classic beauty of linotype—its strike of keyboard sends a ‘matrix’, part of mould for forming each character of type into a cartridge that sets a single line of text. Once it’s ready, the molten lead, which is in fact an alloy of lead, tin and antimony, is poured into the mould to set for printing. At one point, the newspaper was publishing 20,000 copies a day, employing 20 typesetters to prepare up to six pages. These days its circulation stands at some 1,500 copies, selling at 60 euro cents. But its recognition is for a long legacy of tradition, with the smell of lead and the cracking of metal on metal, for which Le Democrate de I’Aisne won a special mention at the Future of the Press trade show outside Paris in November last year.

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