Surprise salute: Longtime printing tradesman marks milestone

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The most senior member of the Inland Press team, Doug Maskell (second from right) has worked with four generations of the Thompson family, founders of the company. Pictured with Maskell are (left to right) Account Representative Connor Thompson, CEO Brad Thompson and Production Manager Andy Thompson.
(Photo by Tom Kirvan)


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Sixty years ago, J.F.K. was president, the first Wal-Mart store opened, astronaut John Glenn Jr. became the first American to orbit the earth, the Cuban Missile Crisis put the world on the nuclear edge, and Doug Maskell began his career at Inland Press, the sister company of The Detroit Legal News that prints the daily newspaper.

In historical terms, it’s hard to rank them in order of significance, although the longtime typographer for the Detroit-based company has certainly witnessed and been part of a transformational change in the printing industry over the course of his career.

A Detroit native, Maskell received a surprise salute at a special luncheon June 9 at the printing operation on West Lafayette Boulevard, a get-together held in honor of his 60th anniversary with the company.

It was a low-key event, featuring a summer menu of grilled burgers and hot dogs.

It proved to be just the kind of gathering that a man who prefers to remain out of the limelight could enjoy to the fullest.

“I prefer flying under the radar,” Maskell said in the aftermath of the luncheon that was void of any presentations or speech-making. “This caught me by surprise, which probably was a good thing because if I knew it was coming, I might not have attended.”

Maskell began working at Inland Press as a Linotype operator, a key job in the printing profession that valued speed and accuracy as well as an infinite amount of patience in dealing with machines that often proved to be cantankerous.

“They weren’t always predictable,” Maskell said of the Linotypes, a hot metal typesetting system that cast lines of type for the production of newspapers and other print jobs. “They also could be a bit dangerous if you didn’t know what you were doing.”

Fortunately, Maskell did, developing a mastery of the machine over a 10-year period before Linotypes were scuttled in favor of photographic typesetting as the industry marched into the “cold type” era of publishing in the early 1970s.Over the next decade, Maskell and his colleagues at Inland — the largest commercial printing company in Detroit — would continue the march into the digital era, a drive that would coincide with its move into its current headquarters on West Lafayette Street in the Corktown area of the Motor City.

“We had been located in a building at 2nd Street and Congress in a much spaller space than we have now,” Maskell said of the sprawling facility that for the past four decades has served as home for Inland and The Detroit Legal News Publishing Company.

It wouldn’t be long before Maskell had to be trained in another typesetting system, desktop publishing, which revolutionized how newspapers were published in the computer age.

“There’s always been something new to learn,” Maskell said of his role with Inland. “I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some great people here.”

During his career, Maskell has worked for three generations of the Thompson family, which has guided the publishing enterprise since its founding in 1895.

Brad Thompson is the company’s current president and CEO and is the fifth generation of his family to lead the publicly traded company.

“When I began, Brad’s grandfather was the head of the company,” Maskell recalled. “Within a couple of years, Brad’s father took over and ran it for many years before Brad became president.
“It has been great to have worked for all of them. The Thompsons have treated me well and this company is like family.”

Maskell, the oldest of three children, grew up in a home near 7 Mile and James Couzens on the north side of Detroit. His father worked for Burroughs Corp. before moving into sales, while his mother was a housewife.

“Going to college wasn’t an option for me, so my dad said I better get a job fast,” Maskell said of his eventual hiring at Inland. “I had an uncle who was a printer, so I had a sense that getting into the trades would be a good place to make a living. Working here has been good to me and I have enjoyed being part of this company for so many years — almost too many for me to keep track of.”

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