Computer fault halts newspaper production

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 12:32 02/08/2011

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A serious computer fault preventing several major newspapers going to print overnight has not stopped the printing of afternoon publications. 

Newspapers across the Fairfax Media group, including Christchurch's The Press, The Dominion Post, Southland Times and Timaru Herald were not published this morning.

However a modified version of the Taranaki Daily News, also a morning paper, made it to print.

Fairfax's afternoon papers, The Manawatu Standard, Marlborough Express, Nelson Mail and Waikato Times, published abridged or customised versions today.

Manawatu Standard editor Michael Cummings said the IT problems forced the edition to be created using a different system, meaning the number of pages had to be reduced and the paper would be late going to press.

"It's taken a huge effort to get the paper out today, but it's incredibly disappointing we haven't been able to give our readers the product they deserve."

Fairfax Media chief executive Allen Williams said the fault hit the main production system around 4.15pm yesterday and despite best efforts from IT staff, it was unable to be restored.

"We are extremely disappointed. We pride ourselves on getting our papers out and have to say to our readers and advertisers we are very sorry," Williams said.

"It's a bit like we've run a marathon and had a "did not finish" against our name."

Williams said staff had worked throughout the night to fix the issue, but it was yet to be resolved.

Stories intended for the morning papers had been published online at Stuff.co.nz and the papers' websites, he said.

Editors across the Fairfax group apologised to readers for the inconvenience.

"Despite the best efforts of the IT team, we had to accept at 2am that it could not be restored in time to produce the paper," Press editor Andrew Holden said.

Holden said he was wrong to say earlier that an edition of the paper was lost in 2009 due to fire in the printing hall.

"The production team has rightly picked me up on this. We did have to scramble out a reduced news section, and our Saturday paper relied on other parts of our company helping with classified pre-prints, but we did not lose a whole edition thanks to their determination.

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"It is frustrating and disappointing to have missed the paper today, but it is also easy to keep things in perspective here in Christchurch, when we have lost family and friends, and homes, in the earthquakes.

"Though our national IT system has let us down this time, it saved us in February, when we managed to put out a paper on February 23 thanks to the support and work of our colleagues around the country," Holden said.

Fairfax central region general manager Gerard Watt said the company was "absolutely disappointed" it was unable to produce The Dominion Post this morning, despite the tireless efforts of staff working into the night and sacrificing sleep.         

"A few of us are looking a bit dishevelled this morning as a result."

Nelson Mail editor Paul McIntyre said he hoped normal production would resume tomorrow.

Marlborough Express editor Steve Mason said  it had taken the combined efforts of all the staff to get a paper out, but they had enjoyed the challenge and were determined to bring readers their local news fix.

Acting Editor of the Timaru Herald, Grant Shimmin, gave his sincere apologies the paper was unable to be printed.

"Naturally, we were extremely reluctant to face up to the situation of not being able to put a paper out," Shimmin said.

The error was fixed today.

- Stuff

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