Thursday, June 29, 2006

You know it is going to be a bad day when ...

When the phone rings at 2:25 a.m., it is never good news. For a parent, the first thought is that something has happened involving one's child. For an editor of a morning newspaper, the second thought is something bad has happened affecting the content or delivery of the paper.

That was my situation early Thursday, when News Editor Monty Gilles delivered my wake-up call. A computer problem was preventing us from outputting the final eight pages of the Thursday's Telegraph Herald. We still had to produce negatives of those pages to burn the press plates required to print the paper. At the time of Monty's call, press time already was 90 minutes past. Worse, our technicians, in communication with specialists off-site, weren't sure when the problem would be fixed.

Fortunately, it was fixed less than an hour later, and the press rumbled to life about 3:35 a.m. -- more than 2½ hours behind schedule. It had been a long night for many people -- employees and independent drivers alike -- who had been waiting for papers, or working to fix the problem, or planning ways to mitigate the delays once we started printing.

Then it was a difficult morning for for thousands of people -- employees, carriers, drivers and customers -- who had to deal with schedules thrown far out of whack. (Some of those employees had already been up half the night.)

Fortunately, it could have been much worse. Our press, circulation and mailroom crews picked up the pace to get the newspapers out the door. Drivers moved efficiently. Carriers delivered as quickly as they could once their bundles arrived.

Certainly, there were serious service delays on certain routes. Many carriers had other commitments and could not forego those obligations to wait for their newspapers. For them, delivery would have to wait until late morning or, in some area communities, mid-afternoon. However, as best we could where we could, we used substitute carriers or employees to pick up the slack.

However, in most areas, that 2½-hour deficit was trimmed. Some subscribers did not even know there was a problem until they read it in the paper.

We are quite appreciative of those individuals who demonstrated that extra effort — and of our many customers who showed their patience and understanding during the service problem.

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