Saturday, November 27, 2021
Nov. 27, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Holiday presents a challenge

By , Columbian Editor
4 Photos
Pressmen work with plates on the printing press on the day before Thanksgiving.
Pressmen work with plates on the printing press on the day before Thanksgiving. (Lyndsey Hewitt/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Thanksgiving is the biggest challenge of the year for all of us at The Columbian. It’s traditionally our biggest edition of the year, chock full of Black Friday advertising. Producing and delivering such a big newspaper requires a lot of extra effort on the part of all of The Columbian’s employees and carrier force.

It all starts in the days leading up to the holiday as extra trucks deliver the preprints, also called inserts, to our warehouse. If you’ve never been to The Columbian, we are located in two buildings west of Esther Short Park. One of the buildings has our roomiest warehouse attached to it, while the other building houses most of our offices, the printing press and a large room where specialized equipment inserts preprints into the newspaper, and the finished papers are counted and bundled for delivery.

All week, forklifts delivered the preprints from one building to another, and our crew worked extra hours to get all of them assembled into jackets, or packages of inserts, that could be placed inside the newspaper. We hired a crew from a temporary services agency to help with handling.

The facilities were so full, we even used some covered parking spots between the buildings for the overflow on Wednesday evening.

One of the preprint jackets was the Thursday Life section. We printed this section early Monday morning so that it would be available early for the inserting crew. That meant extra work last week to make sure the pages were ready to go to press several days early. It also meant that Business got a rare standalone daily section in the Thursday paper, because our press is set up to print four sections at the same time. It also meant that a few sharp-eyed customers noticed that in their home-delivered copy of the paper, Section E, Business, came before Section D, Life. We did that on purpose so that folks used to looking at Page D4 for the comics, for example, wouldn’t be confused.

The four main sections of the Thanksgiving paper were printed Wednesday afternoon. We’ve done this for several years now. There are some disadvantages — late-breaking news of John Bishop’s sentencing had to go in the Friday paper, though of course it went online right away. But it’s really the only way we can make sure the paper gets to customers on time Thursday morning. In addition to needing more time to handle the inserts, we also print more copies of this edition, because a lot of nonsubscribers like to buy it on the newsstand so they can get the ads.

Check out photographer Alisha Jucevic’s video on our Instagram page to see the papers rolling off the presses.

The early deadline had the biggest effect on the content of the Sports section. Wednesday’s paper was printed late enough to include nearly all of Tuesday’s sports news and scores. What can you put into a Thursday edition that’s published less than 12 hours later? Luckily, Sports Editor Micah Rice and his team had a plan. They published the fall all-region high school sports teams. That gave us some great local content that could be planned, reported and edited in advance.

The biggest hardship in the newsroom fell on our 10 copy editors. They had to work late Tuesday night to put out the Wednesday morning paper, then return before dawn to do the Thursday paper. To give them an extra hour of sleep, we moved the Tuesday night press start up by one hour. We also bought coffee and doughnuts!

After all of that deadline work, there was one benefit: The copy editors went out for a Wednesday afternoon cocktail.