SYMBOLICALLY CLOSING ONE era and inaugurating another, the Toronto Globe and Mail has transformed its old composing room into a permanent prepress training facility.
The Technical Training Centre, officially dedicated late last month, is equipped for new and refresher training on the paper's editorial and graphics systems.
Its six workstations are each equipped with a Macintosh 630 with 20MB RAM and a 486-based Compaq Presario with 8MB RAM. Students in the small-group classroom also can access the paper's Atex front-end system.
The center has a full Ethernet network connection to the systems used by corporate business, human resources, advertising, accounts payable/receivable and editorial.
In a telephone interview, Globe and Mail editorial technology and training manager Donald Grey said students "will have a connection to the network they use every day ? including live data if that is appropriate."
Besides the computer equipment, the center's pride and joy is a state-of-the-art computer screen projector that is clear even in daylight conditions.
The training center solves a continuing problem that the Globe and Mail shares with papers across North America: Refresher and continuing technical training of employees.
"You get a new hire and basically they train by sitting next to an employee who may only know 20% of the capabilities of an application ? and after those two days, for the next five years [the employee] gets nothing in the way of training," said Grey.
That sort of practice is a formula for disaster nowadays, he noted.
"Before you could get away with that. But now if you don't keep up with the changes that are coming every two or three years, you have soon fallen behind the competition," he said.
In many ways, the commitment to continuing ? and high-quality ? training represents a logical step in the newspaper's devotion to modern technology.
The Globe and Mail, after all, was the first metro daily to be fully paginated, Grey noted.
But the issue of continuing training has grown in priority both on the newsroom floor and in the executive suites. Recent employee surveys show growing demand for more training and career development education, Grey said.
And now the paper has leadership committed to training, as well. The Globe and Mail's relatively new publisher, former Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher Roger Parkinson, has been "extremely supportive" of the training initiative, according to Grey.
"The combination of expressed employee interest and [Parkinson's] support helped create this center," he said.
There is also, though, Grey's own self-professed "zealotry" about training.
"Everything I have ever read about training and technology ? and I've read a great deal ? tells me that whatever you pay in training is returned two, three, five times," he said. "There is no better ROI (return on investment) than training."
The center is purposely designed to hold only six students, who will be trained in sessions that are designed to last no more than four hours.
"What [employees] learn in the morning they can put into practice as soon as they get back to their desks," Grey said. There also are business reasons to keep the classrooms small and the sessions short, he noted.
"We had a hard recession and a slower recovery than the States," Grey said. "We would love to be able to take 10 or 12 people at a time out of the newsroom and dedicate a week to training, but that is out of the question."
Not surprisingly, a waiting list for use of the center developed the week it opened. In a recent column to readers about the opening of the Technical Training Centre, Grey noted that its location symbolizes the technological change that has transformed newspapers: "It is perhaps appropriate that in a composing room that once housed Linotype machines and their caldrons of molten lead, we now have PCs and Macs that can connect electronically to all our internal systems and databases, to our offices across the continent and to Internet resources around the world."
By: Mark Fitzgerald Toronto Globe and Mail transforms its old composing room sp.