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 October 22, 1999

Dailies gear up – news will not stop for Y2K

As the calendar careens toward the daunting date of Jan. 1, 2000, local newspapers have found themselves dealing with the issue on two distinct fronts.

Like every corporate entity with a reliance on information technology, newspapers have taken a hard look at their own internal computer systems, upgrading hardware and software when necessary to avert possible New Year’s breakdowns.

In addition, the papers have had to map out a strategy for covering Y2K. Neither of these tasks are new, as many information-technology workers and reporters alike began focusing on the issue several years back.

“We’re way into it,´ said Linda Sease, vice president of marketing at the Denver Rocky Mountain News. “If you haven’t started (preparing your systems for Y2K) by now, you’re too late.”

Sease noted that the News staff relies on hundreds of desktop personal computers, an elaborate network of telephones and several mainframes, including a front-end system and a business-information system. Without proper preparation, she said, the millennium bug could wreak serious havoc. Because the Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard is the News’ parent company, the News was mandated to follow corporate Y2K policies, Sease noted.

Likewise, Boulder County newspapers have been similarly readying their systems. “Our operations people have been working on it for over a year,´ said Thad Keyes, managing editor at the Daily Camera, also owned by Scripps, in Boulder, noting that it has been a “companywide priority.”

The Longmont Times-Call recently installed updated newsroom technology and a new front-end system that are “totally Y2K-compliant,´ said Curt Anderson, the Times-Call’s managing editor.

“We don’t have any great fears,” he added.

“This is something we’ve been working on since 1995,´ said Carol Sloper, the News’ client-services supervisor and acting Y2K coordinator. “We inventoried … and found that not every system was Y2K compliant.”

Where non-compliance was discovered, she said, hardware and software was either replaced or upgraded.

“We’re confident that we’ll publish,” Sloper stated. “It will be business as usual at the Rocky Mountain News.”

Dan Persiani, vice president of information services and technology at the News, reiterated this opinion. “We’re in very, very good shape,” he said. “I feel 100 percent confident that our systems will continue to function, provided that a number of supporting services continue to run, such as power.”

The possibility of New Year’s power failures also has spurred area newspapers to discuss contingency plans with the Public Service Co. of Colorado. If localized brownouts occur, the long-standing Emergency Publishing Plan agreement will come into effect, by which newspapers with disabled presses can send their editions to other facilities for printing.

“The new technology really makes a difference,´ said the Times-Call’s Anderson, referring to the ease of e-mailing Adobe graphics files across the state for publication.

“I still think that’s the big one,´ said the Camera’s Keyes of possible power outages. “You need electricity to run a press the size of our press.”

While he acknowledges it could be a problem, Keyes noted that some “pretty creative ideas” have been offered as contingency plans.

While newspapers ready themselves for the year 2000 internally, they also have devoted many a column inch to the ever-growing Y2K issue. At the Daily Camera, the subject was declared a “franchise topic” in the fall of 1998, said Keyes, a designation that denotes a strong public interest.

“It’s a topic, to some extent, on everybody’s mind,” he noted.

Several Camera reporters have written on Y2K, he said, with the paper running business, science and general interest stories on the issue.

Similarly, the Times-Call, the News, and the Denver Post have dedicated space to the issue.

“We’ve done a lot of stories,” the News’ Sease said.

Anderson of the Times-Call noted that there have been numerous relevant breaking stories amidst “a lot of smoke.” He added, “I think as the moment draws near, I think more of those fears will come bubbling to the surface. … We don’t want to cause panic.”

The Denver Post did not respond to requests for comment.

The prevailing attitude of newspapers on the momentous date change is this: Since the news will not stop for Y2K, the coverage also must continue. Regardless of the manpower and money involved, local papers have been bracing themselves for millennial problems with an optimistic – yet realistic – mindset in terms of both internal preparations and external communications.

As the calendar careens toward the daunting date of Jan. 1, 2000, local newspapers have found themselves dealing with the issue on two distinct fronts.

Like every corporate entity with a reliance on information technology, newspapers have taken a hard look at their own internal computer systems, upgrading hardware and software when necessary to avert possible New Year’s breakdowns.

In addition, the papers have had to map out a strategy for covering Y2K. Neither of these tasks are new, as many information-technology workers and reporters alike began focusing on the issue several years back.

“We’re way into it,´ said Linda Sease, vice…

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