The Record’s publisher announced last week “with a heavy heart” that The Record was shutting down its printing press — not the paper but the press.

Deitra R. Kenoly explained The Record’s press is outdated and expensive to operate. Newspapers are consolidating printing operations.

“The toughest part of this decision is that more than 40 of our valued employees will lose their jobs,” Kenoly wrote.

The announcement hit me both as a newspaperman and a lover of Stockton and its history.

As a newspaperman, one with high regard for his co-workers, I’m sad for those who lost jobs.

So is Jack Jacobs. The paper’s historian, Jacobs is a retired Record “paper planner.” His job, configuring the paper every day, entailed working with the press crew.

“It’s heartbreaking, you know?” Jacobs said. “You have to know the tremendous respect I have for these craftsmen. That’s exactly what they are, tremendously talented people that are able to get out a paper every day, mechanics, innovators, problem solvers. They just don’t get the credit they deserve.”

As for the history, a Stockton press has printed The Stockton Record since 1895. The tail end of the Wild West era. The year Grover Cleveland took office and the outlaw John Wesley Hardin was shot. So young was California that the city of Los Angeles was smaller than Lodi is today.

Granted, that’s a tradition, not the actual press (the press crew may disagree). But that’s how far back it was that a young go-getter named Irving Martin and a short-lived partner charged into Stockton’s newspaper wars.

“A rival publication printed a cartoon showing a freshly-dug grave awaiting the new Evening Record … ” Marjorie Flaherty, herself a Record reporter, wrote for the San Joaquin Historian in 1995.

And that rival ended up in that grave. One reason Martin was able to throw dirt on them, and other competitors, was the press. Having started as a printer’s devil, Martin believed the best press was a competitive advantage.

When in 1927 The Record laid out a huge sum for a mammoth new press, the paper splashed the story over its entire front page: STOCKTON NOW HAS FASTEST PRESS IN THE STATE.

A sub-headline read: “Record, with Faith in Future, prepares for City’s Growth.”

The new press, it seems, represented more than some utilitarian factory upgrade; its expansion breathed the city’s optimism. It, like Stockton’s historic courthouse, was a tangible expression of the brash spirit that created a moonshot of a city in wilderness on the edge of the map then aspired to the best.

It was also a thundering din of affirmation that The Record had the institutional strength to stand up for its readers and fight City Hall and whoever else needed fighting. That takes resources. Or, to put it another way, you can fight City Hall, but it sure helps to have a press.

Occasionally, when arguing with some official smugly dismissive of the public’s right to know I would tell them about the tractor-trailer rig, a shiny tanker holding 7,000 gallons of soy-based ink, which routinely pulls into the paper’s corporation yard.

I would say, “You’re not fighting with me. You’re fighting with that truck. If you want to stand in front of that truck, go ahead.”

You’d be surprised how many little Napoleons converted to transparency on the spot.

The trucks will still deliver ink. The presses will still roll. But elsewhere. I’ll miss the beeping forklifts delivering giant newsprint rolls, the press crew in aprons or coveralls, the deafening symphony of machines a city block in size. The night crew chucking bundles of fresh papers into waiting trucks which rumble off towards outlying cites. The whole inky enchilada.

“It’s an end of an era, obviously,” said Tod Ruhstaller, head of The Haggin Museum. “But it also demonstrates that you’re adapting to changing conditions.”

Irving Martin changed technologies, Ruhstaller said, much the same as today’s Record. “You guys got into the whole digital thing. You were already responding to changing conditions.”

So here’s to a clattering metal monster with its belts and banks of buttons and catwalks, and in its grimy innards the DNA of its city, and in its computers the quill-pen coding from 1776. Rest in peace, big guy.

Contact columnist Michael Fitzgerald at (209) 546-8270 or michaelf@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/fitzgeraldblog and on Twitter@Stocktonopolis.