“Oh, editors at The Kansas City Star, why do you have to ruin my Thursdays?” said a caller this morning with what I gather was mock indignation.
This reader identified himself as a loyal reader of the paper, and a particular fan of the puzzles and comics. But he pointed to what he calls “the most annoying thing” he deals with — the fact that the Preview section on Thursdays, which is a nearly-square tabloid, isn’t folded into even halves.
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He noted correctly that the 816 news magazine he receives on Wednesdays is the same size, yet it’s folded evenly. So why is Preview always off-center? Is there some setting on the presses that gets mistakenly knocked out of alignment while the Thursday paper is being printed?
No, it’s not a mistake. In reality, there are numerous sections that get printed with what’s known in the printing business as a “lap fold.” If you’ll look at yesterday’s Food section, for example, you’ll notice it’s folded the same way.
But here’s the critical difference: Most of those other sections are broadsheets, meaning the fold comes horizontally across the middle of the page. It doesn’t create two uneven facing pages there.
The bottom line is that using this lap fold is sometimes a necessity in the extremely complex steps that multiple newspaper sections are printed, moved and ultimately inserted together. Because of technical reasons (which are way too difficult to explain, even though I’ve seen them in action), there is no other way for Preview to be printed and inserted with the Thursday paper.
Several years ago, programmers were at least able to adjust the templates on the pages to keep printed material from falling into the “gutter” where the pages fold. That made for somewhat easier reading. But of course I understand and sympathize with those readers who find the fold problematic.