From us to you…a timely, quality product

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Newspaper production is truly a work of art.

Prior to the advent of “offset” printing, type was actually cast from metal, locked into a large form, ink applied and then paper was pulled, with just the right amount of applied pressure, across the form to produce a printed sheet.

This business has come a long, long way since those early days of putting ink on paper. The old “cut-and-paste” composing rooms, complete with their huge typesetting machines (from where you had to change a filmstrip every time you wanted a different font) are gone. In their place is desktop publishing….1,000’s of fonts and type sizes at a touch of a computer key. Pagination soft-ware, digital cameras and PhotoShop have replaced the composing room and eliminated the need for a darkroom, where film was “souped” the old-fashioned way and continuous tone prints produced in an enlarger.

However, no matter how much, or fast, the technology changes in one end of our business, we still put ink on paper with machinery that dates back to the 1960’s.

Even though we keep our press here in Ahoskie in tip-top shape, it does suffer mechanical failure every now and then. It seems we’ve had more “now” than “then” recently.

One week ago the folder on the press simply quit doing it’s job…that of placing a neat half-fold in our newspaper products. Six hours, a lot of sweat and a few choice words later, we were back up and running. Unfortunately, we missed our deadline to the Post Office (the majority of our newspapers are delivered by mail). That meant last Tuesday’s edition of the News-Herald and Wednesday’s Gates County Index were a day late in being delivered.

To say the least, our main office in Ahoskie was swamped with telephone calls on Tuesday/Wednesday. Our loyal readers wanted to know where their newspaper was. Most were courteous upon learning of our mechanical woes…a few weren’t as sensitive, giving us an earful for not receiving their paper in a timely manner.

While what those irate customers had to say could be interpreted as mean-spirited, they were right. We provide a product, one promised for delivery on certain days of the week, and we charge for that product. We must make each and every effort to ensure that the product winds-up in the hands of our customers in a timely manner.

We must also ensure that the product is readable. That’s another problem area we’re working through at the current time. Most may not know that we lost our lead pressman (our only true pressman) to injury a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully he will return by mid-September.

In the interim, we’ve employed a veteran pressman to fill the void. While he knows his way around a web printing press, there’s always an adjustment period to endure while getting the feel of a different piece of machinery. All web presses use the same fundamentals, it’s the intricacies of each press that makes them unique.

Our “fill-in” guy is getting a better feel for our press. That will, in turn, afford us an opportunity to produce a better product.

Just bear with us while we sort through a few issues. After all, you, our loyal readers and advertisers, are the reasons we work in this business to begin with.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.