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Last modified: October 15. 2002 12:17PM
|Company name: The Washington Times
Location: Washington, D.C.
Daily Print Circulation: 103,652
Product Purchased: SAXoPRESS Publishing System
Date Implemented: Summer 2000
Integration: Managing Editor Advertising Layout SystemT
Number of Seats: 290
Server OS: Sun Solaris(tm)
Client OS: Mac OS(tm) 9.2
A complete technology makeover
The Washington Times Streamlines Its Production Process With SAXoPRESS
The server room Sara Cooperrider, Director of Computer Services, poses with members of her staff in front of the SAXoPRESS servers. From right to left behind her are: Mark Biggerstaff, Gil Roschuni and Mike McClements. (Gerald Herbert / Courtesy of The Washington Times)
In 1997, as part of a multi-million dollar technology overhaul, The Washington Times began a search for a new editorial pagination system to replace its aging newsroom front-end system. It wasn't until early in 2000, after looking at 22 different systems, that The Times decided they had found what they were looking for in the SAXoPRESS Publishing System from SAXoTECH, Inc.
Today, after working with SAXoTECH for over two years, The Times now has nearly 300 newsroom employees using its state-of-the-art cross-media editorial production system, and - thanks to SAXoPRESS - The Times has been able to significantly streamline their electronic page production.
Their `legacy' system
"The old system was no longer being developed and hadn't been updated for a number of years," said Gil Roschuni, Research and Development Manager for The Washington Times. "Basically, it was a dead end."
In 1982, The Times purchased the defunct Washington Star's Logicon editorial system (which was originally created in the 1970s). In 1985, Logicon sold the system to Harris Corp. Shortly thereafter, Harris asked Software Consulting Services to take over the Logicon code and port it to less expensive microcomputers. Finally, in the late 1990's, SCS discontinued development and began selling another system.
In addition to the lack of development and technical help, the managers at The Times decided that a basic text editing system was no longer sufficient for them.
They wanted to move toward full electronic page makeup, but their SCS system made that difficult. Using the first XTension ever developed for QuarkXPressT, The Times could move content from the SCS system to a Macintosh workstation for electronic pagination. But, because of the limited and labor-intensive procedure for exporting news content from their front-end system, The Times was only able to paginate advance pages.
"The pagination interface was not efficient," said Roschuni. "It was also one-way. Changes on the page were not reflected in the editorial system."
So, in 1997, Roschuni began a search for a system that was "database-driven, cross-platform, included an interface for Web publishing, and allowed employees to work remotely." He began sitting in on demonstrations at tradeshows and researching the trade publications.
"The first time I saw SAXoPRESS was at NEXPO in New Orleans," said Roschuni. "Of all the demonstrations we had of various publishing software, SAXoTECH clearly stood out."
His search was temporarily interrupted when The Times was forced to deal with serious Year 2000 issues in their business systems. But by early 1999, an editorial system committee was formed and several vendors were asked to come to The Times' offices and perform system demonstrations.
"We chose SAXoPRESS because of the workflow tools and it's interface to Quark," said Roschuni.
The Times purchased a complete SAXoPRESS system, including:
- The Basic SAXoPRESS Editorial System, including the Articles Module, SAXoTEXT text editor, Photos Module, Layout Module and QuarkXPress Xtensions
- SAXoTECH's Automatic Image Processor software automates the process of preparing images for Web and print output
- The NetNews Web Publishing Xtra integrates the newsroom into the process of building Web pages and help improve the Times' Web workflow
- The SAXoBRS Archiving System allows The Times to archive all of their published text, images and pages in one central, indexed repository
- The company also deployed the SAXoAnyWareT system (which allows users to perform basic editorial functions through a Web browser) as a remote access solution
The Times decided to install the SAXoPRESS Oracle 8 database on multi-processor, redundant servers from Sun Microsystems, Inc.
All but one of their newsroom users run the SAXoPRESS client software on Apple Mac OS computers. (The lone Microsoft WindowsT user is Editor In Chief Wesley Pruden.)
It was decided that, in order to fully take advantage of the new system's functionality, The Times would have to overhaul most of their production systems, as well as put in a whole new networking infrastructure. This included:
- A new advertising layout system
- A new advertising production tracking system
- A new full-color proofing system
- 2 new imagesetters
- 2 new RIPs
- A new imposition server
- A new copy-dot scanner
In addition, the newsroom was rewired for a new 100MBPs Ethernet network, which was deployed throughout The Times' campus, while a Gigabit Ethernet backbone replaced the FDDI Ring network that tied the three Times' buildings together.
All of these systems had to be installed and operational before their new SAXoPRESS system would be deployed.
The implementation of The Times' SAXoPRESS system began in late summer of 2000. "We started building the server hardware and connecting it to their new network and other new production systems at that time," said Soren Bak, VP of Customer Fulfillment for SAXoTECH, Inc., and the primary project manager for The Washington Times installation.
The advance pages that were previously being paginated with SCS were moved over to the new system quickly. Other individual pages and small sections followed, until in January 2001, when the main News departments went live. "That was a big milestone for the project," said Bak.
The Sports section was the final part of the daily paper to convert from SCS to SAXoPRESS. After all the agate formats were defined and the import routines were debugged, they went live on SAXoPRESS in September 2001.
The Times now has 290 named users working in their SAXoPRESS system. Twenty of those users have the ability to access the system from remote locations.
One year later
"We are now very comfortable with the system," said Sara Cooperrider, Computer Services Director for The Times.
Although the implementation had its share of stressful days, "It all seems worth it now," said Cooperrider.
"I don't think I'd do anything differently," said Roschuni. "We are especially pleased with . how well it integrated with the myriad of other software needed to put out a newspaper and publish on the Web. It has dramatically streamlined the process."
The Times has attempted to quantify some of the results of their major technology overhaul:
- The Times was able to eliminate 15 full-time positions (11 pre-press and four in the newspaper's library), which amounted to a savings of a little over $600,000 per year
- The reduction of the pre-press staff was accomplished without having to add any employees in the newsroom
- The SAXoPRESS Web publishing software allowed The Times to avoid hiring two additional New Media employees - while expanding their Web site to include the entire contents of the printed newspaper
- The Times is using $10,000 less in consumables per year thanks to SAXoPRESS
- The amount of time between page deadlines and press starts has been reduced by 15 to 20 minutes every night
- SAXoPRESS allowed the News, Sports and Metro sections to extend their color deadline by an additional hour each night
The system has also proven to be extremely stable. "Our database server has never crashed," said Roschuni.
Users of the system say they like the interface and the way the SAXoPRESS software allows them access to so many different things.
"The system is nice and flexible on the desktop," said News Editor Brian Sink.
"There is a synergy between the SAXoPRESS system and the Internet," said Roschuni. "Having the ability to sit at one workstation and do anything you want is a powerful new thing for many of the users."
An article that appeared in the May 28, 2002, edition of The Times ("All systems are go") described SAXoPRESS in this way:
"Our new SAXoPRESS publishing system integrates the Internet into the newsroom's workflow. Not only does it gather content from various sources more efficiently, it organizes and stores information to make it readily accessible to reporters and editors, whether they are in the newsroom, at home or on the road."
Most valuable to the managers at The Times, however, is the control they have gained over their production process.
"I appreciate most the fact that I can pretty much monitor the production of the whole paper as it's put together," said Sink. "It allows me to keep track of everything from one desktop. This is invaluable to me."
Sink's job is to make sure that all the pages are being completed and released on time throughout the evening.
"For example, the system lets me see that I can close a page and send it to the imagesetters if I get this one story finished or fill this one hole. That makes my job really easy," Sink continued. "We've seen a huge savings on the production end."
In fact, the newsroom credits SAXoPRESS for giving them the ability to quickly produce an Extra Edition for their coverage of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. "We were adding page after page," said Sink. "I would have been very frustrated if I had been forced to deal with our old production system on that day."
About The Washington Times
The Washington Times is a full-service, general interest daily newspaper in the nation's capital. Founded in 1982, The Washington Times has quickly become one of the most-often quoted newspapers in the U.S. It has gained a reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting and thorough coverage of politics and policy. The Washington Times is "America's Newspaper." The Washington Times also publishes a National Weekly Edition which includes the week's best news and commentary from the daily edition.