By: Jim Rosenberg
The Dec. 23 edition of the Marshfield (Mo.) Mail was late in arriving owing to a computer-to-plate breakdown and subsequent additional scrutiny of a replacement part when it was shipped through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
When the Screen thermal platesetter’s control panel ceased functioning on Dec. 21, the replacement was sent on short notice to allow plate output the next night at the plant in Springfield. In adjacent Greene County, the plant prints Webster County’s Mail and seven area sister papers the same night.
Expected at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the panel missed several flights, and did not arrive until almost 2 a.m. Wednesday, with most of the Neighbor Newspapers titles still unprinted.
Editor Mark Lile explained to readers the following week that airport security thought the package looked suspicious, “and set it aside for a closer inspection that apparently took several hours.”
“Anytime anybody’s going to ship an electronic part, it’s going to be suspect,” remarked Matt Hale, manager of the Springfield plant for Nowata Printing — like Neighbor Newspapers, a division of Community Publishers Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark.
Hale credited Screen, based in suburban Chicago, with doing “a pretty good job jumping through hoops to find” the panel and ship it out. But under prevailing airport security practices, he added, anyone needing a part as soon as possible “would have to look seriously at just driving” to the supplier or hiring a delivery firm to do so.
The eight newspapers already had sent page files to the Springfield plant when the panel malfunctioned, and “we were paralyzed at that point,” Dave Berry, publisher of the Bolivar Herald-Free Press in neighboring Polk County, told E&P.
While waiting for the delayed panel, a sheetfed printer in Springfield helped by exposing about 100 Neighbor Newspapers pages. But at commercial CTP’s 10 plates per hour, in contrast to the Screen machine’s near-50 pph speed, “we found out fast that nobody here in town could handle our volume” at speeds newspaper are accustomed to, said Hale.
As the last paper to be printed in Springfield, the Mail often can include late-breaking news from Monday nights or Tuesday mornings, but Lile noted that its place in the press runs also meant it was last to reach readers.
In addition to Neighbor Newspapers and Nowata Printing (which takes its name from its other plant, in Nowata, Okla.), Community Publishers also operates a Web publishing division.