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Questions about The Star? We’ve got answers

Does anyone yell, “Stop the presses!” for a big news story, the way they used to in the movies?

Nope, there rarely is a need. For one thing, computer technology has made it easier to get late-breaking news into the paper. For another, The Star stops its presses regularly in midrun for late sports scores and news items. Once every few years, though, there is a news event that causes an unscheduled press stop. One example was the late-night plane crash in 2000 that killed Gov. Mel Carnahan while he was campaigning for U.S. Senate.

What are your deadlines, anyway? How are they decided?

Most copies of The Star have a final deadline of about midnight. A couple of pages have later deadlines, ordinarily for sports scores. Many pages have earlier deadlines so the pressroom isn’t hit with all the pages at once. Some sections — often FYI and Classifieds — are printed in the afternoon and the evening. Later, they are combined with a late printing to form the full paper.

Presses run until 2 to 3 a.m., printing the hundreds of thousands of newspapers that must be delivered before most readers wake. All our deadlines are based on timely delivery to readers, many of whom want to read the paper before they go to work in the morning.

How much paper does it take to print an edition of The Star?

Some weekday editions require as few as 60 rolls of paper. The rolls, called newsprint, average three-quarters of a ton, so these editions require about 40 metric tons. Sunday editions, when there is more news and advertising, can require 400 or more rolls of newsprint.

Sometimes, the color pictures in my copy look faded, or the colors don’t quite match up. Other times, the color looks good. Why is the printing inconsistent?

The Star’s press crews work hard to produce as good a paper as they can, yet our 40-year-old presses can be difficult to tune. That is complicated by editions with large numbers of pages or lots of color pictures and ads.

State-of-the-art technology, the kind that The Star will have when its new printing and distribution plant goes on line in 2006, makes color adjustments possible on a computer screen. Currently our presses must be adjusted manually. The new equipment will make registration — the alignment of each of the four colors — easier and more precise. Colors will be brighter, too.

Why does my Sunday paper have all those slick color ads that fall out? Why do you print so many?

The Star does not print those slick ads, which are called inserts. The newspaper serves as a delivery vehicle for those advertisers, and that is a source of revenue for the paper. Currently our presses cannot print inserts of the high quality that advertisers want.

What happens to the paper after it comes off the press? How does it get to my driveway?

From the pressroom, copies are delivered by conveyor to The Star’s Packaging and Distribution Department. Special machines count the newspapers and stack them in bundles, and Star employees stack the bundles by hand on pallets. The pallets are loaded on trucks that drive to drop locations outstate or on the fringes of the metro area or to one of the newspaper’s 11 distribution centers throughout the metropolitan area. At these sites, carriers pick up their assigned numbers of copies and begin their routes, either loading single-copy sales boxes, delivering to news racks in stores or tossing newspapers at the homes of subscribers. Nearly 700 carriers deliver The Star each morning.

How far away do you sell this paper?

You can buy The Star as far away as Jefferson City to the east and Salina, Kan., to the west. It’s available as far north as Unionville, Mo., and as far south as Bentonville, Ark. One caveat: You can’t buy The Star every place in between, but you still can buy it in lots of places.

I like reading the want ads. How many do you run in a week or a month?

In a typical month, The Star contains more than 10,000 automobile want ads, more than 3,000 employment ads and more than 1,000 ads for pets.

How does The Star make its money?

Like most newspapers, The Star depends heavily on advertising revenue and, to a lesser extent, sales of the paper. More than nine in 10 ads, by the way, are purchased by retailers with outlets in the Kansas City area. The rest are national ads for automobiles, movies, cell phones and so forth.

How does The Star spend its money?

The newspaper’s two biggest expenses are employee pay and newsprint, the paper it is printed on.

More and more I see references to content on the Web. Why don’t you just print that in the paper?

Our Web site, www.kansascity.com, allows us to give you information we can’t fit in the paper. Sometimes, it is extra photos. Often, it is specialized information that only a fraction of our newspaper subscribers want, such as verbatim transcripts or tables.

Does The Star use recycled paper?

Yes. The Star’s paper comes from several mills, and the percentage of recycled material a mill can produce depends on the state of the mill’s technology. Some mills can make nearly 100 percent recycled paper, others less than 20 percent. Overall, about 30 percent of The Star’s paper is recycled. Generally, paper with higher recycled content tears more easily, which can cause problems in The Star’s press runs. Too many press stops because of tears, called breaks, can delay production and delivery.

Where does the paper come from?

Most mills that deliver paper to The Star are in Canada. One is in Alabama, and another is in Washington state. As a rule, mills are near large forests of pine trees, from which paper is made.

How much paper do you keep on hand? If deliveries stopped right now, how long could you keep printing?

The Star stores enough newsprint at its plant to produce about four weeks of newspapers. The same will be true when The Star moves all its production into its new Press Pavilion. About 10 days’ worth of paper will be stored in the building, and about 30 days more will be at a warehouse in the East Bottoms.

The ink in my paper smudges and gets on my fingers. Can’t something be done about that?

Something is being done. Our new state-of-the-art presses not only will use less ink to print each page but will use inks that should smudge less. Our current 40-year-old presses were converted to offset printing from letterpress printing and require thinner ink that rubs off more.

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