In the not-so-old-days, newspaper production problems revolved around machines and mechanical breakdowns.
A computer system fails, a folder malfunctions, something breaks on the press, a conveyor or inserter fails in the distribution center and your paper isn’t on the doorstep when you want and expect it.
Those things still happen, but the digital age of news distribution has added even new opportunities for the system to fail.
We found that out last weekend.
Our epaper is normally online by 6 a.m. each day. That didn’t happen last Saturday.
In a blog post earlier this week, Mark Shenefelt, our online director, explained how the online production process works:
“The Standard contracts with an international company to optimize our printed paper for online viewing as the epaper edition, available at http://www.standard.net/digital. The epaper work is done overnight, after the printed pages run on the presses here in Ogden.
“The optimization can be done anywhere in the world, as long as the producers have the pdf images of our pages. Our newsroom sends those pages via ftp early each morning; then several hours later our readers see the optimized pages in the epaper.”
When the Saturday paper wasn’t up on time, Olive Software, the company that produces it, said they had suffered a “catastrophic system failure.”
Generally when those three words are strung together like that, nothing good is going to happen.
Olive Software, our U.S.-based provider, has operations in Israel and, because at that time fighting was still going on between Israel and Hamas, speculation about the problems included a rocket attack or some other war-related catastrophe.
Turns out the company’s problem wasn’t rocket attacks in Israel, but rather the death of a major political figure in Mumbai, India, where Olive also has production facilities.
Bai Thackeray passed away early Saturday, Mountain Time, the city shut down in mourning and workers went home, including Olive’s workforce.
The Standard’s online staff scrambled and posted pdf versions of the Saturday paper by about noon.
Despite earlier concerns that Sunday’s epaper might also be jeopardized, Olive put together emergency production facilities. Saturday’s regular epaper was posted later in the day and Sunday’s also went up, although about 30 minutes late.
Shenefelt summed it up best in the closing paragraph of his blog post:
“Globalization demands attention be paid to local cultural conditions. As we found out, a shoe dropping in Mumbai can trip us up in Utah, if certain connections are in place.”
Dave Greiling is managing editor of the Standard-Examiner. He may be reached at 801-625-4224 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.