I had hoped to write this column a couple of weeks ago. I had planned to write it for yesterday's paper. Doing it this morning still is a leap of faith - or maybe just the end of my procrastination. Downstairs, the presses have not started. But they will. They always do. This Week arrives today. On schedule.
My focus here should be the quality and content of the Empire's new weekly entertainment section, "This Week" in print, aka "juneauthisweek.com" on the Web. But what a trip it's been.
Late last summer, Publisher Don Smith proposed that we improve the Empire by creating a more comprehensive entertainment section.
As a model, he passed around a good-looking "tab" (newspaper-speak for a "tabloid," which is defined by Webster as "a newspaper that is about half the page-size of an ordinary newspaper." Hey, we're no ordinary paper, but I trust you get the picture.) The model was from somewhere in Tennessee - Kingston, Brentwood, Fernwood, I can't remember - and it was impressive.
We already had Alaska's best arts and entertainment writer in Riley Woodford, first-place winner in the arts reporting category in the state press club's most recent contest. We showcased Riley's work every Thursday in our Preview section and again on Friday in his Weekend Best Bets column. To call Preview a section was a bit of a stretch. It was a cover page and a "jump" (continuation) page, period, the end.
Then on Sundays, the Empire offered Channels, our "TV & More" tab that featured contributions from readers ("Juneau Who" photos), the newsroom (Ann Chandonnet's "What's up with that?" column), our news services (Dave Barry and Dear Abby), freelancers (TOE's "The Swamp" cartoon), the TV listings and more. Channels was edited by Special Publications Director Christina Holmgren and was assembled by her and by the Production Department.
Don's proposal seemed straightforward: We would combine Preview and Channels, add movie reviews and a dining guide, and design and package it all more attractively. He suggested printing thousands of extra copies for distribution around town.
The devil hiding in these details was the design-and-package part, which fell to Design Team Editor Lori Thomson. One day Lori was designing Riley's two-page Preview section and the next she was planning a comprehensive, 36-page section through which we intended to dazzle our readers. Her prototype has had us excited for weeks just as various technical difficulties have kept us on edge.
I'm sure you'd all like to know the details of the temporary derailments and meltdowns, but suffice it to say my plan to write this column yesterday was put on hold when 11 pages of the debut issue locked themselves inside Lori's computer and refused to come out or to show their not-yet-inky faces.
Joe Abandola and Brett Bohannon of the Empire SWAT team finally used a tear gas software program to flush them out. Nobody got hurt and through the mysterious process that happens here daily, I hear the presses beginning to rumble downstairs.
I believe our efforts have been worthwhile. I hope you will find This Week to be the attractive, comprehensive and useful entertainment section that is our goal. (Look for juneauthisweek.com to debut around Christmas.) Refinements will follow. Your feedback is encouraged.
Managing Editor Steve Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.