The Record will undergo a change next week

Tom West, West Words
Tom West, West Words

The Record, like every newspaper, changes each issue. Readers keep picking it up because our purpose is to share the latest information about the community and about the products and services sold by our advertisers.

Next week, we will do that, same as always. However, most of you will notice something different about your copy of the Record. It will be taller.

To be precise, each page will be six inches taller. The width will remain the same.

The result is that each issue will have fewer pages. That will be good for advertisers because it will mean that readers will be more likely to stop on the page where their ad is.

Our intent is not to change the amount of news that we present each week. Nor are we changing our advertising rates.

The primary purpose of the change is because of issues we have had with inserting preprinted advertisements in the Record.

If you were to measure the Record you are holding today, you would learn that its dimensions, half folded before you open it, are 8 inches tall by 11 1/4 inches wide. If we insert a single sheet, 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches, a half inch would stick out of the top. By the time the sheet is inserted, put in a bundle, the bundle tied, loaded into a vehicle, and delivered to your door or newspaper tube, many of those oversized inserts are ripped or torn.

To make matters worse, when we have a number of inserts that stick out of the paper, they don’t stack very well. More than once, we’ve had a stack tip over, creating a huge mess, delaying the process and requiring those copies to be reassembled from scratch.

Our inserting crew first begins assembling the inserts on Thursdays, and puts in two long days assembling them into packages for each carrier. Then, at 6 a.m. Saturday, they return to place the inserts inside the Record as soon as it returns from the printing plant.

During the early part of the week, it is fairly quiet on the lower level of the Record building, but on Saturday mornings, even I know to stay out of the way because I might get run over. The distribution area becomes a beehive of activity, as we strive to get 20,000 copies of the paper, all with the correct inserts, out the door as quickly as possible.

As the years have gone by, we have seen a change in some of our insert customers. We have asked our customers to keep the finished size of their pre-print to 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches or smaller. Most have accommodated us. However, some use a printer in a far off plant, who may not have the equipment to meet our size requirements. We charge $30 per thousand  to fold oversized pieces. Not surprisingly, in the highly competitive, thin-margined economy in which we live, our customers don’t like those oversize charges.

At the same time, we don’t like to deliver copies of the paper with torn and ripped inserts hanging out.

We were at an impasse. Because we at the Record believe that we exist to accommodate our customers, however, we had to find a solution, and the one I came up with is to make the Record taller. By doing so, we will make the paper large enough so that almost all of our inserts won’t stick out. That will make it easier for our carriers to handle them, and hopefully you won’t receive any inserts that look like they have just been put through a wringer.

Over the years, I have learned that newspapers are more of a habit than a product. Those of us who work at newspapers know that we mess with that habit at our own peril. We could have the snowstorm of the century, but if the Record is late being delivered, somebody will call to express their displeasure. It’s nice to be so wanted, but we don’t ask anybody to risk their life on behalf of the paper.

So that’s why, except for the height of the pages, we are changing the paper as little as possible. The order of news will be similar to this week’s issue. Sports will still be at the back of the A section, and our best feature stories about your friends and neighbors will be on the front of the B section, followed by school news. The classifieds and Farm section will still make up the C section.

One side benefit of going to a taller page is that it will open some of the pages up, giving our page designers a chance to show off their talent.

And we do have some design talent at the Record. Last week, I was at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention, and I brought home with me a first place award for Advertising Excellence.

While the credit for this award has to be shared by everyone who touches ads in the process, including sales and proofreading, the bulk of the credit goes to our sterling graphic artists, Faye Santala, Pamela Brisk and Shirley Olson. I swear, they can make chicken soup out of chicken feathers. To take the analogy one step further, more often that not, we hand them something that could only be called “hen scratching,” and they turn out an appealing ad sure to catch readers’ attention.

If you have any concerns about the new “look” of the Record, by all means give me a call. It isn’t our goal to hide the news from you or make your life more difficult. We are simply trying to deliver everything that  we insert into the Record in as good shape as the Record itself.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. He may be reached at (320) 632-2345 or by e-mail at [email protected].