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We’ve moved, but remain connected

December 2, 2018

The long hallway once lined with photographs of U.S. presidents and notables visiting Danbury was eerily quiet on Tuesday.

Just weeks earlier, political candidates marched through the newsroom and up the hallway to the executive conference room for Editorial Board meetings, as countless political hopefuls have done through the decades.

But as of Tuesday, the bustle and buzz of putting out a newspaper every day — and throughout the day on the web — was gone. After 48 years in the brick building at 333 Main St., The News-Times operation moved. But not very far. We’re now at 345 Main St., just a few buildings north.

Your daily community newspaper is still in downtown Danbury.

I had been telling myself that I wouldn’t get sentimental about a building that previously had been home to the First National Supermarket, as many will remember. Times change, needs change.

But as I walked around the nearly empty building Tuesday morning, the significance enveloped like a benevolent ghost. A lot of good journalism happened within these walls.

My office had once been home base for longtime Editor Ed Frede. Nearby the legendary Steve Collins, known in Connecticut as a father of Freedom of Information, wrote editorials. Mary Connolly, the first female Editorial Page Editor at the paper, followed Collins in influence. Many managing editors made their mark in that place, including from 1986-92 my husband, James H. Smith.

I peered through the window of what had been his office and pictured him pounding out his provocative columns while running the newsroom.

There’s the dark room where photographers once raced to develop their film on deadline, a room unnecessary since the advent of digital cameras. There’s where the compositers pasted strips of columns to form a newspaper page, in the days before computers made the trade obsolete.

And there’s the cavern where a mighty two-story Goss press printed the newspaper, until 2009 when the operation moved to another Hearst paper in Bridgeport. A faint, lingering scent of printers’ ink triggers memories of hearing the press rumble to life after midnight and with an intricate weave of massive rolls of blank newsprint, stamp out the papers that in pre-dawn hours would be delivered to homes and businesses throughout the region.

Our newsroom covered hurricanes, fires, floods, parades, scandals, groundbreakings, tragedies — the panoply of life in Greater Danbury during those 48 years at 333 Main.

On the other side of the wall — a wall literally separating news from advertising — colleagues in the advertising department showed businesses how to promote themselves to newspaper readers, first in print and now also digitally.

The business office years ago became centralized and now is in Norwalk at Hearst’s Connecticut headquarters.

Our large building with pale-yellow cinder block walls was getting outdated and too roomy. It was sold and will be razed to make way for about 150 apartments that will be part of Danbury’s growth.

On Nov. 4 about 100 former and current employees gathered at 333 Main to say farewell to the place that had been home. It was unexpectedly moving as many, such as retired Publisher Forrest Palmer, recollected the hard work and rewarding accomplishments through the years.

A newspaper is more than a building.

More than a century ago, James Montgomery Bailey bought a new printing press in 1883 and began publishing The Danbury News as a daily in a building overlooking Wooster Square. Known as the “Danbury news man,” Bailey moved the operation a decade later to the then-new turreted building on the corner of Main and Elm streets.

There the newspaper remained until the 1970 relocation to larger quarters at 333 Main, and with a photo offset press instead of the cold metal linotype. Was there sentimentality at leaving the landmark where Bailey built a community institution?

Perhaps. But with it surely was an excitement for a much roomier and more modern home.

Over the past few weeks, desks and panels were dismantled pieces at a time around us as we continued to work. Wednesday was our first full day in our bright and clean home. We have new ergonomic desks, new chairs. You will see the lights burning into the evening on the second floor of 345 Main St. The traditional The News-Times nameplate is affixed to the outside. Now the ghosts have the old building to themselves.

We brought to our new place a 1955 original painting of the turreted building where the “Danbury news man” moved his nascent newspaper exactly 125 years ago. We moved, as Bailey did, yet we remain connected to our history and to our communities.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jacqueline Smith at jsmith@hearstmediact.com

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