Empire taking a giant, anxious step forward

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2000

On Monday, your Juneau Empire takes the cyber plunge into the 21st century. By the end of the week the Empire arguably may be the technical equal of any paper in the nation. On Monday, however, we may just be a staff of exasperated, deadline-challenged journalists, composing room personnel and press operators pondering the irony of getting exactly what we wished for.

There was a time when the Empire had a state-of-the-art system. The cliche in the high-tech world is that between the time you order it and the time it is installed, hardware or software can become obsolete. One of the more humorous commercials on TV these days shows a young man driving home, his newly purchased ``T5'' PC on the seat of his convertible alongside him. He's feeling cool, contemporary and cutting-edge until he catches a glance of a nearby billboard where workers are pasting up a huge advertisement for the new ``T6.''

Computer obsolescence can be a state of mind. Your system works fine, but you know that all around you there are newer systems with more whistles and bells. Imagined inadequacy can become real when your adequate-but-aging system interacts with advanced systems located beyond your reach and beyond your budget. The pressure gets turned up a notch when you know you are unable to utilize all of the technology that ostensibly is available because the cyber hourglass squeezes almost shut between somebody else's new system and its link to your older system.

At the Empire, we've soldiered-on as our technology grayed. To our joy and anxiety, Morris Communications Corp., our parent company, recently made a major commitment on behalf of the Empire. For the past couple of weeks, Erich DeLand, our network administrator, and teams of Morris Communications technicians from Augusta, Ga., and Topeka, Kan., have brought us to the brink of a brave, new world as they wired the building for high-speed connections and installed a freight-car load of gear from boxes bearing the Apple logo. At times, they have wanted to push us into the deep end of the pool. Most of the Empire staff has asked if we can wade in gradually, venturing a little deeper each day this week. Permission granted.

Thus, armed with our new iMacs, G4s, assorted peripherals and software programs with names like Baseview, NewsEditPro, QuarkXpress and Adobe Photoshop, we begin the transition from cut-and-paste to full pagination. For us, that means pages with editorial and advertising content will be made within our computers and will move almost directly from there to the presses. If all goes well, you probably will not notice much of a difference in the final product except perhaps the elimination of our unintended ``slant'' on the news.

Before autumn, we may be able to have a garage sale at which we will offer Exacto knives and waxers at significant savings.

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