Newspaper staff weighs in on print problems
Two editions of The Daily Cougar could not be printed this semester and, in turn, were unavailable on campus — most recently the March 1 edition.
“That was probably the best paper I put out this semester, but almost nobody will know because it didn’t print,” Editor in Chief Ronnie Turner said.
The editors and staff spend many hours working on the paper, meaning a printing malfunction can essentially ruin an entire night’s work.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing any time there isn’t going to be a paper that day because there are hours and hours of effort that go into the paper,” Student Publications Print Production Manager Matt Dulin said.
“It kind of defeats the purpose of staying at the office all night,” Turner added.
Despite the printing problems, the staff understands that this type of occurrence is part of the nature of the journalism profession.
“To have it not printed is disappointing, but we realize it is part of the business. At this point in my career, I have desensitized myself to that happening. Things go on and things happen, and you’ve got to adapt,” Turner said. “It’s a business, and you have to be willing to take the good with the bad. Sometimes, you’ve got to sit back and bite the bullet.”
The Internet helps ease the problem. If the printer fails, the newspaper is uploaded to thedailycougar.com.
“Luckily, we have a pretty good Web site now, so we got most of the news out,” Dulin said.
But students are still affected, especially since many who pick up a newspaper on campus aren’t inclined to look for it online.
“Students miss a chance to get a real educational feed. A lot of students were hurting, I think, because they didn’t have a crossword puzzle,” Turner said with a grin. “You sort of disrupt the campus for a whole day if people don’t get the crossword puzzle. We need to get them their Sudoku.”
But editors and readers aren’t the only people who lose out when a printing malfunction occurs.
“There are advertisers, reporters and photographers all contributing to it, and all that work kind of goes nowhere when the paper doesn’t come out,” Dulin said. “I think (the students) are pretty adaptable so they sort of shrug it off.
“But those expecting to have something published, they’re the ones who feel the most pain from it. They don’t get to see the product of their work.”
Turner specifically sympathizes with the student reporters in this situation.
“From a reporters’ standpoint, it’s tough, because there were some good stories in there,” Turner said. “My heart can go out to a reporter, because you slave hard, and it’s hard when you turn it in and it doesn’t make print.”
Like almost any other publication, the Daily Cougar sells advertising space. If one of the papers does not print, those advertisements don’t run.
“More times than not, we may lose some money in the process, and we can’t always run the ad on a different day,” Turner said. “Sometimes the ad has to run on a specific day.”
Turner emphasized the importance of advertising revenue, noting that the size of a newspaper is one way to tell if it is profiting.
“The more ad money we get, the more pages we get,” Turner said. “The smaller the paper is, that means you’re not making that much money.”
The Cougar staff said it didn’t lose too much money from advertisers because of the two printing issues, but every cent is crucial at this time.
“In this struggling economy, we are trying to make ends meet, and we can’t lose that money,” Turner said.
So, what happened?
The problem occurred after the finished product reached the printing press.
The Cougar staff isn’t clear on the exact mechanics of the malfunction, but Dulin said the complexity of the printing press means there’s always a chance some component can break down.
One time stands out more for Turner.
“The more recent one, I remember it personally. There was an electrical problem at the printing press; a fuse blew out,” Turner said. “It took them so long before they realized the fuse just needed to be replaced. By the time they got it fixed, it was pretty much too late, and that (paper) didn’t go out.”
Sally Rowland, director at the campus’ Printing and Postal Services office, emphasized that she didn’t know the cause of the printing issues, but timing is always key.
“When a piece of equipment goes down and you only have one piece of equipment that does that job, then there is only a couple hour window to fix it,” Rowland said. “When it happens at a certain time, (the paper) can’t go out.”
With the Cougar relying heavily on a malfunctioning machine, Turner would like to see some changes.
“I hope, over time, that the printing press can get some upgrades,” Turner said. “It sounds like they need it.”
Ideally, this will not be a recurring problem, Dulin said.
“I’m fairly confident there won’t be a similar problem … they do a pretty good job of keeping things up around there,” Dulin said. “There’s not a whole lot that we personally can do to prevent this. Once we turn the material into the press, it’s kind of out of our hands.”