Editorial System Bug Delays ‘Chicago Trib’

By: Mark Fitzgerald

A glitch between new editorial system hardware and old editing software caused an 11-hour production hangup that delayed the printing of Monday’s Chicago Tribune to the point that the paper jettisoned half the pages in its main sheet just to get something to subscribers before noon.

As it was, many copies did not arrive at subscriber doors until nearly noon — and the paper warned on its Web site that some subscribers may not get it until Tuesday morning.

The glitch also affected production of the Tribune’s youth-oriented tabloid RedEye, although the Chicago edition of the Spanish-language daily Hoy was produced normally. Contract printing and commercial delivery of The New York Times was not affected by the production delay, Tribune Senior Vice President and General Manager Dick Malone told E&P.

Malone said the problem cropped up unexpectedly Sunday afternoon as the paper began using new and upgraded hardware on the platform where its editorial system resides. “The hardware worked fine, but the software we use to edit the paper had to be rewritten to work with the new box,” Malone said. Under test conditions, the hardware and software worked together as intended, but when the paper switched to live production, the text “hung itself up,” he said.

“There was text on the screen, but (the system) couldn’t image on film,” Malone said.

As some prepress employees labored to find a work-around for the problem, others began looking at an alternative, though slower, imaging path using a Macintosh platform. “We were very pressed for time,” Malone said. The paper did not begin outputting film until 3:30 a.m., four hours past deadline.

Tribune officials decided to reduce the main section page count from 48 pages to 24.

Production of Tuesday’s edition is expected to proceed normally, Malone said. “We’ve located the problem and we’re working on a work-around,” he said.

The paper announced that “all Monday subscribers and advertisers will receive credit for the curtailed edition.”

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