A year ago, the Yale Daily News redefined its production process, creating and sending its pages fully digitally, and eliminating costly film and cumbersome paste-ups as a result. The decision has benefitted every aspect of the paper, enabling the News to produce a less expensive, more versatile and higher quality publication.
But at the same time, it eliminated the role of George Thompson, a News employee who had been responsible for preparing the paper for print each night for the past 30 years. At its 123rd annual banquet Saturday night, the News honored its most versatile member, the man who has been called everything from the News’ “guru” to “the only sane person at the paper.”
In 1971, George — as nearly everyone who ever worked with him called him — applied for a job at the News and was hired on the spot. Over the next three decades, he did everything from operating clunky typesetting machines to pasting up countless slowly produced headlines to delivering film images of the paper to the printer.
But to the hundreds of News staffers who knew him, George was far more than a technician, designer or delivery man. He was a deadline-enforcer, an adviser, an arbitrator and the unofficial historian of a landmark newspaper.
His office in the basement of the Briton Hadden Memorial Building played host to countless conversations, many of which resulted in improvements to the paper or its production process, and all of which reassured News staffers that George was on our side through it all.
His voice was gentle and his words always kind and polite, but his presence and authority were unmistakable. With deadline looming and production progressing slowly, a simple walk upstairs by George was often all it took to inject an instant energy burst into editors and reporters alike.
More than anything else, George brought order and continuity. In all of his time at the News, through wars, blizzards and technological changes, George never missed a night of work, and the paper never failed to come out the next day. His mere presence reminded us that we were only bit players in a much larger production.
At Saturday night’s banquet, alumni from News managing boards of the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s turned out to bid their loyal night watchman farewell. Characteristically, George said only a few words, thanking those who made the presentation and his longtime colleague, News General Manager Susan Zucker. But as it did in the Briton Hadden Memorial Building for three decades, George’s presence at the banquet left us inspired to live up to the high standards dictated by the News’ rich history.
The News thanks George Thompson for his years of service and friendship — we wish him well, and we will miss him dearly.