Mason County News
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In My Opinion
Technology Does It Again... Ouch!
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 • Posted October 23, 2013

In the dozen-plus years I've been at the newspaper, we have had many changes in how we produce the paper.

When I started, we were mixing the new and the old to do our jobs. All of the layout work was done using Adobe PageMaker 6.5. However, the advertising was not digital, so we pasted the ads onto layout sheets, composed the stories and photos in PageMaker, printed out the digital version and combined it with the hard copy ads to produce a final page. Those pages were then boxed up and driven to the press where they were photographed, plates were burned and placed on the actual press, and the paper was printed. Often, the paper would not be completed until early in the morning. Labeling and inserting of grocery store flyers still had to happen in the earliest hours of the day.

As we moved into 2000, we upgraded our layout software to PageMaker 7.0, and we changed presses. A couple of times.

With those changes came the ability to digitize all our ads and place them on the digital pages we were composing in PageMaker. That meant that we no longer had to print out hard copy versions of the pages and paste them into layout sheets. Which also meant that, rather than having to drive the pages to press, we were able to send them over the internet.... once we finally got high speed connections in Mason! And, one of the things that made my life a lot less stressful, the press was now capable of inserting all the inserts, AND labeling the newspapers for us so that it didn't have to be done when they were delivered back to Mason.

During the last ten years, we have essentially been coasting using the same technology, with minor changes, and slight adjustments required by the presses that we used. All of that is about to change,,,, drastically.

Our current PageMaker software only runs well on Windows XP. Microsoft has announced that, as of March 2014, they will no longer continue to provide security updates for XP, meaning that our PCs would gradually open us up to all types of threats, and to corruption of our system. So.... we have had to get new PCs with Windows 7. And, we had to get new layout software to put together the paper.

We went with the Adobe upgrade of PageMaker which is InDesign. Unfortunately, the latest version of that software will not read or open any of our PageMaker documents! Fortunately, I have a personal copy of InDesign on my computer that WILL read and convert the old files. That means that I will need to open every page, every ad, every document, every form,,, and convert them all to InDesign. One at a time. All of them!

Fortunately, we do have some time. Not a lot of time; but, some.

We finished up our Hunting Guide over the weekend and sent it to press to be printed and inserted in the October 30 edition. I've got the new computers loaded with all the software they need to have on them; but, we will continue to use the old PCs until our conversion of files is complete.

We have decided that the December 4th paper will be the last issue composed using our old computers and our old software. Starting with the December 11th paper, everything will be produced with new computers, new software, new techniques!

We are optimistic that this upgrade will allow us to clean up images, sharpen text, and to be more creative in some of the layout options. We're also incredibly nervous knowing that, for the first time in a decade, we won't be able to just coast along using all the tools we've become so comfortable using. For the first time in a very long time, we are jumping out of the airplane and trusting that the parachute strapped to our back will open when it is supposed to.

For the next month, we will be spending every free moment preparing. We will be converting files, and practicing using the new software. We will be reading about what we can and can't do, and we will be opening ourselves up to what comes next.

Technology has changed our lives over the years; and, technology is now pushing us forward to do things we didn't know we were ready to do.

It’s all just my opinion.

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