Newspapers and Database Management - Looking below the Desktop

Article excerpt

BEFORE YOU ROLL your eyes at the obvious vendor byline, let me quickly get your attention with my real bias -- I spent 25 years in production and data-processing management at the Toronto Star.

That said, let me quickly explain why I've written this article: I am deeply concerned that the newspaper business, which has been so good to me, is blindly entering the 21st century with some naivete.

We are all, publishers and vendor, alike, embracing the flexibility afforded by industry standards in hardware and off-the-shelf solutions. We are doing this to reduce costs and in the hope that we can build solutions more quickly.

My concern is that in our newfound focus on the desktop, we may be forgetting what goes on underneath the desk. I'm speaking about database.

Database requirements are becoming more complicated and demanding. Newspapers are putting everything that is published into their databases. That database needs to work properly and reliably. I believe the industry is not paying enough attention to the security and, particularly, the management of its key asset: information.

Newspaper systems people seem proud of how they are converting to just PCs on LANs and small file-servers, touting the simplicity of it all. It is my belief that the requirements have changed. We can't just put today's database functionalities on a different platform. Far more is now involved than platform per se.

While we debate who owns the correct definition for such terms as file-server, open systems, standards and the like, newspapers are beginning to paginate. Database management is growing in complexity, not simplicity.

As we move into the era of electronic page production, the tasks remain but the way that they are achieved changes. The database of the future must support many different activities and must be manageable.

We all want to contain costs, newspapers and vendors alike. But newspapers seem focused primarily on lowering costs, i.e. "Let's find the least expensive option. …