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Paper shrinks, content doesn't

April 07, 2003|by JOHN LEAGUE

You may notice that this morning's Herald-Mail looks a bit different. Today is the first Sunday that we've published a slimmer paper with a slightly different type face.

It is just as long as last week's paper, but not quite as wide.

Last Thursday, after The Daily Mail press run, we began the last step in a conversion process when we made the final cutdown of our press. Until then, our paper had been printed on a 55-inch wide roll of paper. Now, the width is 50 inches.

The majority of daily newspapers in the U.S. now print on a 50-inch format, including The Washington Post and The Sun in Baltimore. Many of the ads and much of the feature material we receive are sized for the smaller-width newspaper. The size difference is often difficult for 55-inch papers to deal with, particularly in an electronic world.

Newsprint, the paper on which we're printed, is the second largest expense at a newspaper. We can reduce our expenses, and not reduce the quality, by switching to a smaller-width paper.

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We do not sacrifice content because of the cutdown. The type size is virtually the same. And the paper, in many of our opinions, looks better because of a slightly different typeface and some other minor design revisions.

While the advantages of a 50-inch paper were clear, the conversion project was huge and touched nearly every department at the newspaper.

Many of our employees worked weekends and after hours, because much of the work could only be done when we were not publishing a paper or beginning the publishing cycle.

On many weekends, the press would print the Saturday morning paper, be torn down and worked on, then rebuilt in time to publish Sunday morning's paper.

We spent hundreds of hours reformatting and reprogramming computer systems to accommodate the new dimensions and contacting vendors to adjust orders.

In order to eliminate our inventory of larger-width paper, we've occasionally mixed heavier grade paper with our regular newsprint. We've also had some funny looking pages from time to time during the past six weeks.

Our classified section was converted in March. We converted the newsroom Monday for Tuesday's editions. (If you noticed the extra white space around the edge of the paper, then you could tell what day we made the conversion.)

On Thursday afternoon and evening, we tore down the press one final time and refitted it, all in time to publish papers Friday morning and afternoon.

This has been a challenging project, but we have great people here. I'd like to salute all of the folks at The Herald-Mail who made this happen. To each of you, great job! And a special tip of the hat to Mark Kelly, our operations director, and Doug Hoffman, our pressroom manager, for their leadership.

Our carriers and independent contractors have endured some interruptions and disruptions in our production cycle. We appreciate your understanding.

And to our readers: Thanks for your patience as we've tinkered with the newspaper, sometimes creating an odd-looking product.

As of Friday, we're back to business as usual.

In ways some of you may notice and some won't, our paper will have a cleaner look and be easier to handle and navigate than the old model.

And it will continue to have more local and regional news and information than any other source, print or electronic, in the area.

Again, we thank you for your patience, and hope you like the new look.




John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, extension 7073, or by e-mail at jleague@herald-mail.com.

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