Scott Stanford is general manager of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Call him at 970-871-4202 or email sstanford@SteamboatToday.com
Earlier this year, I wrote about the importance of getting the Steamboat Today on news racks by 6:30 a.m.
As I said then, being on time is the single most important factor in attracting readers. There is no front-page story that can make up for being a couple hours late to the racks. The bottom line is, deadlines are critical in the news business, and that means we have to make choices on what news is going to be in the newspaper in the morning.
Our deadline for the final page of the Steamboat Today is 12:45 a.m., but much of the newspaper is completed hours before that. Our first deadline is usually about 5 p.m., and we generally finish and send pages every 20 minutes thereafter to stay on deadline and make sure the newspaper will be ready for the streets early each morning.
Pages are completed and sent in "pairs." You may have noticed that a 48-page newspaper is really 12 sheets of paper - each containing four pages - that are collated and folded in half. The two pages that are on the same side of a sheet of newsprint make up a page pair. The page pairs always add up to one more than the total number of pages in a newspaper. For example, in a 36-page newspaper, page 1 pairs with page 36, page 2 pairs with page 35, and so on.
The way our printing press operates, we can use full color photos on the first and last two pages of the newspaper, and the four pages that make up the center. For example, in a 36-page newspaper, we can use full color on pages 1 and 2 and 35 and 36. We can also use full color on 17, 18, 19 and 20.
Usually, the sports pages and the pages that pair with them are the last pages to be completed and sent to the press. The "sports agate" page, which contains sports scores and standings, usually is the last page to be done so we can account for all of the late national sporting events. This allows us to get scores from the West Coast into the newspaper. This is one of the minor advantages we have over the large, metro newspapers, whose Steamboat editions print at 10 p.m. or earlier.
But, because of the limitations of our press, we sometimes have to do the sports section earlier in the evening.
The maximum number of tabloid pages our press can handle is 48. If we sell enough advertising to justify more than 48 pages, we have to print the newspaper in two sections and then insert the guts inside the outer wrap. For example, we will print a 52-page newspaper in 28-page and 24-page sections. Pages 15 through 38 make up the inner guts, while pages 1 through 14 and 39 through 52 make up the outer wrap.
This scenario almost always happens on Fridays, which consistently is the largest newspaper of the week. And it frequently happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Printing the newspaper in two sections presents some challenges. In order to meet deadlines, one of the sections has to be finished by 8 p.m. Usually, sports is in one of the sections and local news is in the other. This is not a problem when we don't have late-breaking news - we simply do the section with local news first and save the section with sports for the end of the night. But let's say there is a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting or, like we had last week, an election. In those instances, we will move the sports section early, which forces us to print a newspaper without some late sports scores.
Recently we have tried to address this problem by moving sports around. Usually the local news is at the front of the paper, followed by state news, national news, world news, stocks, sports, entertainment and classifieds, in that order. Sometimes we move up the sports section so that it immediately follows local news. I don't like to do this, because I think readers want consistency. But when the newspaper is more than 48 pages, putting sports closer to the front of the newspaper is the only way to get both late sports scores and stories and late news stories into the newspaper.
This may be more than you ever wanted to know about the configuration of a newspaper. But the next time you wake up and can't find the score from the Warriors-Clippers game, perhaps you'll understand why.
If you have any questions about this stuff, don't hesitate to call or e-mail me.