Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Late presstime and the Iowa caucus

At 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, The Associated Press moved an advisory that stated the following:

We expect actual vote results to begin trickling in by 9 p.m. EST. Historically, about 70 percent of the Iowa caucus vote is reported by 10:30 p.m. EST, but the race is close this year and that timing could be pushed back by many factors.

If only the AP editors knew just how much the timing would be pushed back.

The first run is at left, the final at right.
At The News-Herald, we are blessed (and cursed) with a late press start. I was advised that as long as we had our last page to the plateroom by 1:40 a.m., the presses would start on time. When it became clear that we weren't going to have a winner by then, I sent the pages with the earlier story (the paper on the left in the photo at right). I asked the plateroom what was the latest we could replate pages for an updated story, and heard what I didn't want to hear: "As late as you want, as long as the press is still running."

Let me back up and explain some of this jargon:
After stories are written, the copy desk uses a page design program to put the paper together. After a page is put together and proofread, a PDF is dropped on a server that takes it to the plateroom, where each page is printed on an aluminum plate. The plates are then put on the press to print on the newspaper. The press starts running by 2 a.m. every day, so the plateroom needs to have the plates to the pressroom before then, so the copy desk needs to get pages back to the plateroom before that -- a process that could take up to 20 minutes, hence my 1:40 a.m. deadline. When we have to send pages before stories are final (usually in sports, when a Cleveland team is playing on the West Coast [like the Indians with those darned 10:05 p.m. EST starts]), we can replate. The new story is put on the page, and the new page is (quickly) proofed and sent to the plateroom, so a new plate can be printed and put on the press.

So for the next hour we watched CNN talk to Edith and Carolyn from Clinton County. They were really the highlight of this night for me. Check out some of the footage from their phone call below:

Finally, after 2:30 a.m., we heard that Mitt Romney had won -- by just eight votes. The news came at just the right time, and I was able to place the updated story with the final count on the page in time to replate. So some of you were lucky enough to get one of the papers that came off the press after the replate. If not, here's the front page you missed:

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl

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