New offerings much better than myrrh

Executive editorDecember 9, 2012 

In this, the season of giving, here are three new offerings from The News Tribune to you.

UPGRADE IN PRINTING PROCESS

Using the words “news” and “technology” in the same sentence these days normally leads to a conversation about a website or a tablet app. However, the TNT recently updated the technology in its pre-press room, resulting in markedly sharper type and photos in the paper.

Our mammoth off-set printing press requires us to produce a metal plate for each page of the paper. The press inks the plates. The plates stamp images onto rubber “blankets.” The blankets stamp images onto the paper.

Color pages require four plates, each one stamping tiny red, blue, yellow or black dots to make up the final image. Imagine that happening for 70 or so pages, 100,000 times each, all at breakneck speed and you’ve got yourself a Sunday paper.

Our upgrade, as explained to me by TNT quality assurance technician Jim Hickey, was in the plate-making process.

Previously, pre-press operators called up a page from the newsroom on their computers and printed out a giant negative on photographic film – just like the negatives you used to receive from the store that developed your personal photographs. From the film negative, they’d “burn” an image onto a press plate.

New machines installed in recent weeks print directly from the computers onto the plates, skipping the film step.

As Hickey explained, every added step in the process made the final newspaper a little fuzzier. Essentially, we were taking a picture of a picture of a picture. Eliminating the film step keeps the tiny dots much sharper.

The effect on our photos, in particular, was like fine-tuning the focus button on your camera. We’ve seen a sharpening of the type itself as well.

MONDAY Q&A

Two weeks ago, we launched a new feature in our Monday paper, a front-page Q&A with a local person of interest. In fact, we almost called the feature “Person of Interest.”

Naming this feature, it turns out, has been more difficult than producing it.

Local news editor Randy McCarthy has been organizing the effort. Weeks before our launch, he sent an email out to the newsroom asking everyone to suggest a catchy name.

Oftentimes, that works. This time, not so much. The list was astonishingly lame, especially considering many suggestions came from the same creative voice that brings you … ahem … The Nose.

“Person of Interest” had a criminal feel, as did “Wanted: For Questioning.”

“Who are you?” “Do I Know You?” and “What Do You Have to Say for Yourself?” seemed almost rude.

“Answerline,” “Viewpoint” and “Rap Session” fell into McCarthy’s category of “what some Arkansas weekly would have used in the ’50s.” (Our apologies to the great state of Arkansas.)

Dale Phelps, our play-it-straight managing editor, offered: “I’d probably just call it ‘Monday Conversation’ and not try to get cute.”

Come on, Dale, bo-o-o-o-r-ing.

Your humble editor preferred “10 Questions With …” Readers love listy, numbery headlines, I reasoned.

As you might imagine, reporters rebelled at being hemmed in to a given number. The first Q&A, with the man who will manage the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay, launched as “7 Questions With Danny Sink.”

I gave up and let Phelps handle last week’s Q&A with Columbia Bank president Melanie Dressel. It was titled “Q&A With Melanie Dressel.”

I presume Monday’s piece will be similarly labeled.

If you have a better idea, we could use it. Email McCarthy at randy.mccarthy@thenewstribune.com.

We’re also looking for suggestions of people you’d like to meet in the Q&A or specific questions you’d like answered. McCarthy’s your man for that as well. We thank you in advance for your help.

MARINERS BUDGET TOOL

Last week, we launched an online feature that immediately took off with readers. Our interactive page lets you do Jack Zduriencik’s job — build a Mariners roster given the general manager’s anticipated budget.

You can sign free agents, cut and waive players, build a bullpen and shape a roster that is ready to contend in 2013.

You’ll find it at thenewstribune.com/seattlemariners/budget.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434
karen.peterson@thenewstribune.com

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