Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Kenosha, we have a problem — a serious problem

by Lisa Seiser

June 23, 2011

Unless you work in the office at the Regional News or the Kenosha News, you don’t know that there almost wasn’t a newspaper last Wednesday.

The streak of the paper coming out on time — 139 years long — almost came to an end.

Yes, really, no paper. Well, maybe it wouldn’t have been that disastrous. More likely only a day or two late, but that would have been bad enough.

It was 1:30 p.m. last Tuesday when it all went down. We were in the midst of paginating the entire Regional News. Each of the reporters in the editorial office physically create their own pages and we were right in the middle of that process. Then, it happened.

Those of you who know computers, mainly PCs, will understand the feeling of fear and helplessness that radiates through your body when what you are working on freezes and a message pops up that says, “this program must shut down because a fatal error was detected.”

That sometimes happens. Most of the time you just shut down the program and the computer and it works fine again when you open it back up. Not this time.

After contacting our IT department at the Kenosha News, we learned the problem couldn’t be repaired remotely. We couldn’t do anything on the computers. Couldn’t get e-mail, Internet, or most importantly, log into the server where our stories, pictures and pages were.

There were moments when I thought it wouldn’t be until the next morning before we were back up running properly. That would have meant coming in early on Wednesday, finishing the pages and going to press. All those people who pick up their papers on newsstands and at the Regional News office on Wednesdays would have been out of luck, until hours or a day or so later.

But, thanks to the IT department in Kenosha, seven hours later, we were up and running, mostly. We were logged in and connected enough to finish the pages in InDesign and send them to the press in Janesville.

It was about 8:30 p.m. and two pizzas later when we got back behind our computer screens to finish off the June 16 edition.

We got serious as we whipped out some pages, printed them off, proofread them, made our corrections and sent them by computer to plate to Janesville in time to make our regular print schedule.

On Wednesday morning, the paper was out, but our computer issues weren’t completely repaired until later in the day. Everything seems to be working again now.

But, a day like last Tuesday is a reminder of how much we rely on our electronic devices to get things done. I kept thinking, the computer saves us time when it is working. When it is not, we are in trouble.

Now, just think of life without our laptops, cell phones, iPads or GPSs. I know there are people out there who couldn’t function without these devices. It wasn’t long ago that these items didn’t exist and people still were able to communicate, listen to music and find their destinations.

Years ago, things were much different in the newspaper industry, too. But, we still were reliant on the computer. What happened last week would also have hindered our work at that time as well.

I’m sure throughout the history of newspapers, technology had been good when it works and not so much when it doesn’t. That even goes back to the days of the linotype machine, or when color pages were printed in four plastic separations of the cyan, magenta, black and yellow plates.

We’ve come a long way, but sometimes relying on technology as much as we do can be scary. It was pretty frightening for all of us last week.

Seiser is the editor of the

Regional News.