Lockdowns have put almost everything on the back burner, and three of our MOTAT Society excursions have had to be put on a backburner until 2022. However, our last excursion to Horton Media was very much enjoyed by all who attended. Henry Swan paints us a picture of the day’s experience back in July. Congratulations also go to Scott Pilkington, winner of the much-coveted award for the MOTAT Society Chairman’s Excursion Bus Quiz.
Imagine that you had booked a flight to Paris to explore the Louvre and admire the amazing Mona Lisa and told that the flight was diverted to Amsterdam, annoyance and initial disappointment. This lasts only until you discover the Rembrandt Museum and the masterpieces that it has to offer. You discover that it is just as absorbing as the Louvre, not necessarily better but certainly as good in its own way. Well, that was a bit how it was for the Society visit to Horton Media. The word was that we were going to see the Herald being printed on their giant high speed computerised systems only to find that it was to be Horton Media which was more modest in size but equally as interesting AND had a greater variety of print media in a greater variety of languages and interests.
After a fairly arduous drive down the southern motorway and being met by the print manager at Horton Media we were given a briefing by the General Manager about the plant and its variety of throughput newspapers printed in English, Chinese, Hindi and several others thus requiring a most versatile team at Horton Media some of whom we had the pleasure of meeting. Two of the biggest personalities that we could wish to meet were the chief engineer and the print machine manager, both long term employees and both full of relevant knowledge and amusing anecdotes. These two characters entertained and informed us of the sophisticated process from start to finish. But first a little about the company.
Horton Media was established in 1997 by one of the families that founded New Zealand’s largest daily newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, way back in 1863 so it has a very long tradition with newspapers and of high speed newspaper printing which is the most demanding of the print world with its pressured deadlines. Today Horton Media is Australasia’s largest independent cold-set web printer with modern plants in Auckland and Queensland, Australia.
Our main guides, between them, explained the process of producing a newspaper from beginning to end. Firstly there is the receipt into Hortons of the print file which is usually received from the originating editors in digital format, this is downloaded onto the Horton computers, converted and used for making the print plates of shiny flexible aluminium about 45cm square (recycled high quality aluminium). The plates are then taken to the print towers and fitted onto the four colour offset machines. Following the process through right to the end with the folding, trimming and bundling ready for delivery to the end user. The process used is the cold-set process which is mostly used to print newspapers and paperbacks, with the printing ink drying purely by absorption.
To say this visit was interesting would be an understatement, it was truly fascinating to see the four metre tall print towers thundering away with the newsprint travelling through at 15 kilometres per hour pulled from the enormous 450 kilogram rolls. Inevitably there was noise - a lot of it - but putting up with that for the privileged insight into how we get our newspapers was no problem, even for a non-printing background person.
In the heat-set process, the paper is passed through a large dryer and a chill roll unit after the last printing unit. The length of the printing press is almost doubled by these two units. To ensure that the ink dries optimally, special heat-drying inks are used mostly producing the higher glossy magazines.
The Horton Media company caters for independent publishers of high-frequency news publications – a segment that has grown rapidly with the variety and range of requirements of ethnicities in New Zealand increasing the size and diversity of its markets. Horton Media Limited’s focus on quality and environmental stewardship is demonstrated through its sensitivity to recycling unrequired papers and aluminium. It was explained to us with appropriate pride that this has given it clear leadership of its industry segment with no less than 21 Pride in Print citations in New Zealand and two second placings at the Australasian Single Width Users Group conference.
It is said that printers are the barometer of an economy, if the busyness of the Horton Media plant is anything to measure by our economy is stable and rising…
Horton Media is privately held and managed by Matthew Horton the son of the well-known Sir Michael, (that’s Sir Michael and Dame Rosemary, the NZ renowned philanthropists) who, we are assured by the current staff at Horton Media, still visits the plant regularly and by chatting to the staff demonstrates that Sir Michael has lost none of his generosity of spirit, a tradition clearly evidenced by the warmth and generosity of the staff at Horton Media who gave up most of an afternoon to guide us through their plant and topped it off by providing us with generous afternoon tea of cakes and savouries.
Once again, thank you all for the privilege of access to a most interesting and enlightening part of our society.
- By Henry Swan -