The price of progress

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2007

Progress, if not painful, certainly can be inconvenient.

Renovation of the newspaper’s physical plant, installation of new computer systems in every department, and expansion of our printing press over the past 15 months have been processes largely invisible to our readers. That’s due to some cooperative vendors, including contractor Bill Riddick, who bent over backward to accommodate our production schedule, and to my hard-working staff, which persisted through concrete dust, paint fumes and long learning curves on new software and hardware to continue putting out a newspaper three times a week. It’s been impressive to watch.

Today, though, we’ve inconvenienced you. Normally, the weekend edition contains coverage of Friday night’s high school football action in the area. This edition doesn’t because work on our printing press forced us to print at our affiliate newspaper in Ahoskie, N.C., and truck the newspaper back to Franklin. Given those logistics, we simply couldn’t turn it around fast enough to meet postal deadlines for those readers who receive the newspaper by mail on Saturday.

So we decided to put the weekend edition to bed early – before the football games had ended.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is twofold.

We still covered the games, and you can still read about them. Go to our Web site at for the same depth of reporting that you’d normally find in your print edition on Saturday morning. A year ago, you’d have had to wait until the following Thursday to read about the games. Our Web site has given us a powerful alternative medium - one that allows us to be much timelier with our coverage of breaking news.

Second, the work on our printing press, when finished, will be well worth the hiccup or two it created along the way.

This week has been phase two of a two-part project. Phase one was the addition of two units that significantly expanded our press’ color capacity. The new units essentially doubled the number of pages we can print in full color.

Perhaps most noticeable to you has been the conversion of our Celebrations page from black-and-white to color. Many readers have commended the full-color photographs of brides and brides-to-be.

In addition to allowing us to run more news photographs in color, the additional press capacity has created new color positions for our advertisers, who increasingly want access to color. There’s a good reason for that: Color ads stand out on the page and get better readership.

Phase two has been a series of steps to improve our print quality. Having the capacity to print a lot of color is one thing; running high-quality color is another challenge entirely.

This week’s work required us to disable our press and print this edition and Friday’s in Ahoskie.

The press work continues this weekend, but early signs are good. We’ll do a couple of test runs over the weekend and, if all goes well, print Wednesday’s edition on our press and be back to normal.

We appreciate your patience.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is