Construction over, Production Coming

Article excerpt

Three big plant projects on track for offset this summer

Despite setbacks at a couple of them, three major dailies expect to leave letterpress behind when their new plants open this year.

More than a year behind schedule, The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., continued into this spring to experience press-control and folder problems at a new, $55-million, offset production plant, located in a technology park across the Susquehanna River from its downtown offices in the state capital. Attributing delays to "a lot of little stuff," a vendor representative related that on one occasion the controls unaccountably started the paper's Newsliner press.

Training on the Goss Newsliner should start "about mid-May," said General Manager Jim Stephanak. He expected the new press to be on edition in the second half of June, when it will print a redesigned Patriot-News with more sections and more color.

"We did have issues with some of the [Honeywell] controls," Stephanak said, "but those have all been worked out" and the system "seems pretty stable."

Now completed are most of the "modifications that we had to do with the folder," said Stephanak. He said that the British design of part of the Sovereign folder and/or its upper structure may have been responsible for problems because "it wasn't meant for the American product" -- typically larger than its European counterpart.

For two weeks through early May, the offset plant will replicate the current plant's operations. "That's really what's going to shake this thing out," Stephanak remarked.

Not as far behind schedule, another remote plant -- also across a river from midtown headquarters -- the New York Post's Bronx plant is built and almost entirely equipped. Three of four "Postliner" presses (a version of the Newsliner, which took its name from the Daily News, the press' first buyer and a Post competitor) are in.

Post Production Director David O'Neill said press tests have gone well and crew training has begun. The first press is to go on edition the night of May 6. Thereafter, presses two and three will be taken into production, with all weekday copies expected to be printed offset.

"Goss has really stepped up to the plate on this one," said O'Neill. …