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A tale of three weeklies.

WHILE THE BIG Leaguers muse over digital cameras and Internet access, desktop publishing remains a relatively new transition for some smaller weeklies.

At the top of the list of obstacles is the significant cost of entry: equipment, consultants and training for smaller companies are disproportionately more expensive, because of inherent disparities in the price of these commodities.

Smaller staffs also mean fewer people to produce a paper on deadline. There are few if any, back-ups. When one designer boots up a Mac, the whole staff knows it.

The Long Island Advance, Patchogue, N.Y.; Anton Publications, Mineola, N.Y., and the South Shore Record, Woodmere, N.Y., represent different stages of growth, frustration and survival skills in the face of a rapidly digitizing industry. What they do share is a commitment to publishing their papers on the desktop . . . eventually.

From a cost standpoint, representatives of all three weeklies agree that desktop publishing provides attractive incentives, including reduced manhours, more design flexibility at deadline, and decreased or eliminated darkroom and chemical use.

In addition, they cite the potential for higher productivity resulting from electronic file transfer capabilities, which allow employees to work virtually anytime; anywhere.

John T. Tuthill III's grandfather purchased the Advance in 1892, and today it, along with sister papers the Suffolk County News and the Islip Bulletin, have a weekly circulation of 18,000.

Before implementing desktop publishing, the Advance used what Tuthill calls an "army of paste-up artists" and a Varityper typesetting machine. After. desktop equipment arrived in April 1992, Tuthill said, "It took almost a year to gain complete expertise and overcome the errors."

However, the Advance could claim 100% electronic prepress by September 1992, exactly 100 years after Tuthill's grandfather, James Canfield, purchased the publication.

The Advance does its production on Macintosh Quadra 800s, 650s and 610s. An Apple Laserwriter Pro 630 printer is used for proofing, and two 11"xl7" printers, a 600-dpi QMS 860 and a 1200-dpi Xante Accel-a-writer 8200, handle camera-ready output. Today all photos and artwork are scanned, on either an Agfa Arcus flatbed scanner, or a Hewlett-Packard Scanjet 2CX.

In the classified department, data is entered on Hewlett-Packard 486 PCs and then physically transferred to the production room on a disk, where the typesetting manager loads it into one of the 650s.

The Advance's artists use Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator products. Writers and editors use Microsoft Word and QuarkXPress. Once the typography is done, artwork is added to the QuarkXPress pages, which are output on either the QMS or the Xante.

Tuthill was true to his intention for a thorough transition, and so came full circle to the work environment of the Advance's production room. Ergonomic chairs reduce back problems, and indirect lighting is used to cut down glare on the monitors.

In addition, Tuthill said, "The counters were all custom-made, using the correct height for less stress on the wrist."

Tuthill hired a Bayport, New York-based consultant, Roger Thurber, to lead the transition to desktop at the papers' downtown Patchogue facilities. After spending three days assessing a newspaper's needs, Thurber's company, Publishing, Arts, produces a hardware/ software solution in the form of a "shopping list."

The publication gets bids on equipment, and Publishing Arts then advises them on purchase.

When the equipment is delivered, Publishing Arts manages installation, system integration and staff training. The company also provides remote access support, which the Advance utilizes on occasion.

At the brink of full desktop prepress is Anton Publications. Karl V. Anton Jr. is the publisher of Anton's 18 weeklies, which have a combined circulation of 70,000.

Anton began the transition to desktop publishing in 1990, and today all type is set on the desktop. The holdout at Anton is the art department, which has yet to "go desktop." Anton anticipates that the art department will be converted to electronics by May, when it has finished training.

For Anton, the benefits come through loud and clear: "Desktop publishing [gives us] excellent layout ability. The flexibility is tremendous, such as the capability of taking one article and putting it into another paper."

Anton added that in production, the company "needed twice as many people before we started using desktop publishing. There's no question about it; desktop publishing is the way to go. It's done with such ease; I'm constantly amazed."

The art department, which will use Illustrator and Photoshop on the software side, is home to five Power Macintosh 7100s, a 1600-dpi Umax flatbed scanner for photos, and a 600-dpi Hewlett-Packard flatbed scanner for line art.

Editorial enters text on PCs and lays it out in QuarkXPress, using Macintosh IIs and fxs. For now, typesetters leave space for the art department to paste up photos. Camera-ready text output is done on two 600-dpi QMS 11"xl7" printers, and camera-ready art is output on a 1200-dpi Unity 11"xl7" printer. Printing is done in-house.

Anton attributes much of his confidence in the company's transition to typographer and system engineer Tom Baade, who joined Anton when the company acquired a Port Jefferson weekly five years ago and remained with the company despite the demise of the newly purchased weekly.

Says Anton, "Tom does all the consulting - you need someone like him to keep up on the technology. He is absolutely indispensable."

In the initial stages of desktop publishing is the South Shore Record, where Jerry Schwartzberg is vice president of the 15,000-circulation paper.

Schwartzberg says the Record has not made the transition to desktop publishing because he is not confident in the state of the current technology.

"When do you make the switch?" Schwartzberg asks, adding that you could "spend $75,000 on equipment today and risk having obsolete equipment" in the near future.

Some basics are in place: Aldus Pagemaker on Macintosh IIs is used for typography, layout and design. Camera-ready printing is done on a 300-dpi Apple Laserwriter Plus. The art department then cuts and pastes both the type and art as camera-ready mechanicals to be sent out for printing.

To the extent that Anton is confident, Schwartzberg is insecure.

About consultants, he says, "Where will they be tomorrow?" Schwartzberg wants the backing of a large company to reassure him.

"I am very impressed with Quark's publishing system," he says. "But if you are in trouble, they are not structured for the kind of help I want. I need people in the building not telephone support."

Both Anton and Tuthill admit to evidently surmountable difficulties: "One of the hardest things is keeping up with the technological improvements," said Anton, who relies on Baade to conduct relevant research.

Tuthill zeroed in on a single technical issue, his network communications: "The state of the Ethernet is still very basic. It is very slow sending pages this way, especially pages with scans. I can't wait for wireless communication between the workstations and the printers."

The Advance's managing editor, Kevin Molloy, said that a recently purchased 2-gigabyte server is improving network communications.

For representatives of both the Advance and Anton, however, difficulties more likely hinged on the personnel element, rather than technical snafus.

Said the Advance's Molloy, "The transition was rough. The staff did not have a computer background."

However, because the Advance staff embraced the change, they remained encouraged throughout the process. Molloy credits Tuthill with maintaining a positive perspective: "As soon as he saw what desktop is capable of, he went great guns. He really puts a lot of trust and faith in the staff."

At the Advance, desktop publishing was phased in by section, and then by paper.

"The staff is better motivated; the work is more exciting", Molloy said. "They like to use the sounds on the Macs to break up the tension around deadline."

Anton agrees: "The staff adapted to it well; they were very enthusiastic about the computers."

In contrast, Anton cited personal knowledge of another weekly where the staff was unhappy about the transition to desktop publishing. As a result, the publisher is postponing the transition until he overcomes this obstacle.

At the other end of the spectrum are papers like Anton's and the Advance. The latter is truly living up to its name.

According to Molloy, the paper is looking at direct digital capture, as well as online services that could have them posting local, regional and world news twice a day, and potentially competing with dailies.

"We were the primary news source when James Canfield bought the paper in 1892," he says, "and we can become that again. It's just a race to see who's going to grab the technology first."
COPYRIGHT 1995 Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:Newspaper Desktop Publishing; Long Island Advance, Anton Publications and South Shore Record newspapers and their use of desktop publishing technology
Author:Smith, Daniel
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Apr 8, 1995
Words:1425
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