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Customer Case  | Post and Courier, Charleston, UNITED STATES  | 16 September 2014

Post & Courier

Charleston Post and Courier Makes a Seamless Switch to Agfa CtP to Meet its Goals

Post and Courier are a daily newspaper that was looking to upgrade to CtP to decrease make-ready time and extend copy deadlines. In their search for a reliable partner, Post and Courier chose a complete Agfa pre-press system including Arkitex for workflow, 2 Advantage platesetters, advanced screening with Sublima and Intellitune for color and image enhancement.

Right on Time

As the South's oldest daily newspaper, the Charleston Post and Courier has a lot of history behind it-not just in the news it has reported all this time, but in the technology that has been used to put that news into print 365 days a year.

So when the paper recently embarked on a mission to increase automation, streamline its business, and make significant quality improvements, product and technology decisions were made with the greatest deliberation. CtP was the obvious overall solution, so the paper, along with its corporate parent, the Evening Post Publishing Company, looked at all the options currently available in the professional marketplace. "We saw a lot of good ones out there," reported Michael Bella, director of production at the Evening Post Publishing Company, "but we knew we wanted a vendor who was going to be here for the long haul. With Agfa's history in prepress and workflow, we saw investing in a total solution from Agfa as a real asset."

On the Right Track

The Evening Post Publishing Company has always been a technology leader in the daily newspaper industry. Therefore, looking for a system that would give the editorial staff more time to prepare copy while simultaneously advancing the capabilities of its prepress department was a logical step in their continued development. As Bella notes, the combination of automation and quality improvement is known industry-wide as a straight road to profitability.

"Besides," Bella added, "too many people on the production end spend far too much time thinking and worrying about plates as they relate to time and costs-and all that ends up doing is distracting from the business. We wanted to avoid that. The more you automate, the less you worry about individual components, and the more you automate, the more you can work with your advertisers to keep them completely satisfied." The result of all the technology research conducted by the Evening Post Publishing Company and its flagship daily in Charleston is one of the most complete Agfa system solutions available. Now fully implemented at the Post and Courier (and soon to be extended to all the newspapers in the corporate family), the system includes Arkitex workflow for flexible production management and control; IntelliTune software for enhanced image quality and consistency; Sublima screening technology to capture the finest image details and most vibrant colors; Advantage DL 160 platesetters, known for high uptime and low operating costs; and N91 negative-working, violet-sensitized plates, which offer unprecedented reliability and ultra-sharp imaging.

Prior to the CtP switch, the Post and Courier had been using imagesetting equipment that was more than a dozen years old. While the paper did enjoy production and creative success with their previous systems, the equipment was becoming increasingly difficult to upkeep, with spare parts difficult to find when necessary, and day-to-day reliability starting to fall off.

But being in a businesses that never gets a day's rest -even on a slow news day- the Post and Courier could take no chances. Like the paper itself, that kind of day-in-day-out responsibility is something of which Agfa had always been greatly aware, and that, too, became evident during the newspaper chain's comprehensive vendor research, and another reason why Agfa was selected.

"We've known about Agfa for 25 years and were well aware of their track record," said Sam Monk, IS Manager for the Post and Courier and part of the CtP search team. "The more we investigated other alternatives, the more we knew that Agfa was the right decision."

True Consensus

"What we have now in our CtP system is light-years ahead of any kind of traditional platemaking. It is truly a hands-off system," said Prepress Specialist Lee Thomas. "The transition was awesome and completely seamless. We visited seven different sites before we made our final decision on how to construct our prepress room. We learned what everyone felt about it and that really helped remove many problems. We've taken so many steps out of the process and have eliminated many errors along the way."

Staffers at the Charleston Post and Courier acknowledge that with the Agfa solution, more than a half hour has been shaved off the process of making plates each time a daily issue is being created. What used to take 40 minutes now takes five and in the highly competitive newspaper business, that's a valuable asset that allows the Post and Courier, among many other things, to run the latest sports scores, late-breaking court decisions or other hot news, without at all affecting press start or finish times to meet established delivery and circulation requirements. As far as maintenance is concerned, there is only one processor to clean each week, which is quite a departure from the old days.

Intuitive Systems

"We felt that Arkitex made the most sense for us because it is a very intuitive system and works just like production people think," said Dan Enfinger, prepress manager. "We understand the production steps behind it, which is one reason why it was so easy to learn. We use soft-proofing in Arkitex as a quality control tool and routinely catch errors in pages, thereby reducing plate waste and press down-time in the process." Agfa Arkitex provides automatic feedback on the status and actions required for the entire workflow process. It allows operators there to track details, obtain proofs, and receive approvals before making plates or transmitting data to other print sites (when that is required). It is also scalable, which will enable it to accommodate future needs of the Post and Courier and other papers in the Evening Post corporate family. "We are running two Advantage DL 160 platesetters, which are so simple to use," Enfinger continues. "We can easily troubleshoot anything we need due to the simplicity of the entire system."

What the Post and Courier gains from Advantage -beyond its tremendous 160 plates per hour operation (up to 96 plates in the last half-hour before final print)- is a steady stream of consistent, high-quality plates, with operating costs kept low because of its violet-laser imaging system and simple internal design. Advantage can also be configured for multiple plate sizes without customization, and can easily use different plates day after day. In addition, Agfa's new chemistry is much cleaner, allowing the Post and Courier to run a much cleaner and more environmentally-sensitive shop. "Agfa plates let us run with less water," Bella said, "and that was another one of our short-term goals."

Agfa Sublima fit right into the goals of the Post and Courier, fully automating a process that previously required quite a bit of manual labor. "Sublima has given us wonderful results," Bella said. "The images really pop, and it works especially well in conjunction with IntelliTune. The combination makes even run-of-the-mill pictures look great; imagine what it does for our best images! They really shine."

Similarly, IntelliTune replaces Photoshop with a fully automated system, assisting the paper in creating the often striking and attention-grabbing images that helps in many ways define the paper. IntelliTune uses Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP) to analyze the tone, color and spatial characteristics of each image and automatically applies the necessary corrections for best on-press conditions.
Enfinger also noted that Agfa Sublima is particularly useful for the newspaper's image-intensive 'Feature' and 'Zone' sections. "Sublima really comes into play when we have a photo with a lot of detail," he explained. "If the photo is not optimal, Sublima really brings out the details. We plan on moving forward with printing the entire paper using Sublima," he adds.

Sublima is Agfa's most advanced screening option, specifically designed to dramatically improve print quality with no extra effort on press. Its patented technology, XM (Cross Modulated), achieves line-screen rulings of up to 340 lines per inch.

Saving Time

One other significant change is that the Post and Courier now produces PDF files that reflect the actual content of the newspaper. They create web and print PDFs on output from the same postscript files that produce their plates. They also produce two color proofs of each color page (editorial and advertising) that are automatically output directly in the plate pickup area. The proofs reflect the actual content of the plates and are regarded by the prepress staff as a more-then-sufficient final check in quality control. "We are not wasting any time or resources tracking down proofs in Ad Production or in Editorial to send to the pressroom," Enfinger said.

"We see savings in the Charleston operation well beyond what we even anticipated. And when you add the cost efficiencies to better dots, better registration, less water usage, and less press waste, it truly gives us the edge we need," Bella says.

That edge has helped the Post and Courier and its parent company reach levels of success that keep it secure in a sometimes volatile mass media business environment. The flagship paper enjoys a healthy circulation (more than half a million strong), a solid advertiser base, and a dedicated readership. In conjunction with the parent company, they are involved in some very exciting projects today, such as free WiFi Internet access for users on the Charleston peninsula.

To be sure, the Evening Post Publishing Company is a healthy enterprise, now owning newspapers in three states, as well as in England and Argentina, in addition to television station in six states.

Shared Knowledge

Already on board to join the Post and Courier in its parent company's goal for full CtP automation are the Salisbury Post (Salisbury, NC) and The Eagle (Bryan-College Station, TX), both of which will install Agfa Arkitex workflow, while their other South Carolina newspapers in Georgetown, Kingstree, Aiken, Mount Pleasant, James Island and Folly Beach are expected to follow suit shortly with one of more of the Agfa solutions. Indeed, graphics and production people throughout the Evening Post Publishing Company have been following, learning, adapting and mastering prepress, proofing and printing technologies for many years in many locations. Its flagship Post and Courier traces its earliest roots to the Courier and the Evening Post, founded in 1803 an 1894, respectively. Owned by the same parent since 1926, each newspaper maintained separate news staffs until the 1980s. When research indicated that a single morning edition would better serve the public, the Post and Courier began its 'new' life in 1991 as the south's oldest daily newspaper-although it had been a technological leader well before that.

The paper's technological evaluations have been good ones. Making the right decisions is a consistent trend at the venerable daily-and that's a huge plus when you have to share the results of your decisions with the public 365 days a year.

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