For the second time this summer readers have taken the time to fill out a survey regarding entertainment content they would like to see in the Bulletin’s Sunday edition. We are reviewing the results and arranging with the newspaper syndicates that supply the comic strips, television listings, puzzles and other features. It is now time to put the ideas in the hands of the designers to develop a layout.
Readers may recall my column on June 24 in which I explained our plan to discontinue using a generic comic section that is printed in New York and shipped to the Bulletin and numerous other newspapers around the country. For years this has been a cost-effective way for small community newspapers to offer color comics. That is not the case today. The costs of freight delivery and associated fuel charges continue to increase. That coupled with today’s new technology makes printing color comics in house on our press more attractive. We will be able to customize the Sunday feature package for local readers.
In late August we purchased and had delivered another press unit for the Brownwood press. The additional unit brings the total to eight and when fully operational will allow us to print four more pages in a single press run and equally important, it will afford us two more pages with four color inks. The four colors are necessary to print photographs in color. It will also give us more flexibility to print color comics and the other entertainment features we have been exploring. In order to accommodate another unit and four more pages we also had to install a new motor with more horse power and the electrical drive to run it.
Readers may recall the editor’s note in the Sept. 1 edition of the Bulletin explaining why the morning’s sports report was an abbreviated version. The Saturday edition of the Bulletin that morning was printed at a sister plant in Waxahachie. The football game ran a little late because of weather delays and the print deadline did not offer any flexibility. Friday was selected to make the changeover because it offered the most time with the least disruption. The Saturday morning edition of the Bulletin is the only print job that is time sensitive. That gave the electricians and the press crew from 7 a.m. Friday until 8 p.m. Saturday to complete the change over. Everything that could be done in advance was because we knew once we shut down to remove the old motor and controller the press would be unable to print until the new motor and drive were fully operational. It made for a long weekend. The process was very complex from the removal and installation of heavy equipment to the intricate wiring of control panels. Yeomen work was done by everyone involved and at 8 p.m. the press turned and printed two Sunday newspapers — on time.
There is still plenty of work to be done to bring the 36-year-old press up to speed. The seven original units need upgrading and parts replaced. But the mechanical piece of the new weekend design plan is well under way. The contractual arrangement with the New York printing facility will cease at the end of October and Sunday, Nov. 4, is the target date for introducing the new entertainment section.
In addition to printing color comics, the new press capacity will allow us to print full color on the inside section of the newspaper. That means the Sunday sports section will be able to have color photographs, indeed the sports section every day could have full color. Up until now we did not have the time between the end of sporting events and when the newspapers had to be available for delivery to run multiple press runs to get sports in color. We have experimented with sports photos on page one and on the back page of the A-section but neither one was an acceptable alternative. When the press work is complete both the front section and sports section will be able to run together with color on each.
Thank you to the readers that have filled out the surveys and helped provide us with valuable data. Thank you to the skilled trades-people who helped us over the past couple of weeks with this project. And thank you to the employees who have worked long hours, sometimes doing tasks they did not sign on to do.
The project is in the home stretch.
Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.