ELLSWORTH — Flexibility is key in the news business, as in so many industries. Last week it was both employees and the equipment that needed to bend.
The Ellsworth American this month upgraded its platemaking machine for the printing press at 1 Printing House Square in Ellsworth. The new Kodak platemaker, now installed, streamlines the production process, eliminates the use of chemicals and produces crisper lines in the print product. That is a win for readers of this newspaper and of other publications printed on the press. The transition, however, was not without its problems.
Issues of The Ellsworth American and its sister paper, the Mount Desert Islander, were delayed last week. The American hit newsstands Friday afternoon — two days later than usual. Many local subscribers received their copy in the mail Saturday while others did not get theirs until this week. Both papers were printed in South Portland as The American’s press crew worked to resolve issues on the Ellsworth press.
“Our crew has worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to complete the press upgrade,” said Publisher Chris Crockett. “The good news is the upgrade is done and we will continue to work hard each week to get the newspaper in the hands of our readers.”
The newspaper is designed on computers. The platemaker (also called a platesetter) takes those files and makes a plate of each newspaper page. That plate serves as a template for the printing press to transfer words and images to newsprint. The American’s previous platemaker used a chemical process to print to plastic vinyl plates. The new platemaker uses computer-to-plate technology. Newspaper files are sent to the digital “cloud,” downloaded and developed much like photos onto metal plates. Those plates are inserted in the company’s Goss Community press. The press then hums to life, printing thousands of newspapers each week, every week.
Newspaper staff spent months planning for the changeover but experienced several issues when bringing the new platemaker online. The new plates attach to the printing press using different brackets. One set of the old brackets did not want to relinquish its hold. A pressman spent more than 40 hours meticulously cutting out the old brackets so new ones could be installed. Another hurdle was the bend on the plates as they were inserted into the machine. Until just the right configuration was achieved, the press could not run properly.
Those issues now resolved, The American resumed its normal printing schedule this week.
“We’ve got some of the best readers and retail partners,” Crockett said. “Everyone was very supportive and understanding during the delay. The excitement and joy that we felt when delivering the newspapers to stores throughout Hancock County Friday afternoon made all logistical challenges of printing our newspapers offsite worthwhile.”