Everyone says print is dead, but that doesn’t make it any lighter.
Yesterday morning the Erik Wemple Blog went out the front door and surmised that the New York Times delivery person had erred: There were two big blue bags on the entry, rather than the usual one. Further investigation revealed that the bundle was just too big for a single bag. So we grabbed a rubber band, bound the whole thing together and placed it on a food scale: 4 lbs., 13.4 ounces.
“I’ve been at the New York Times for 40 years,” says Nick D’Andrea, the newspaper’s executive director of production, “and when were were putting this together, a lot of us who’ve been around a while were talking about the golden years when we were putting big papers out.” One of those “big papers” hit the street on Sept. 14, 1987, a New York Times edition that weighed 12 lbs. and presented 1,612 pages. That’s according to the Guinness Book of World Records. “There was an army of people” working on that record-breaking newspaper, recalls D’Andrea, who worked at the time in the Times’s mailroom — which, in production parlance, is the place where the newspaper is pieced together section by section.
According to D’Andrea, the official weight for yesterday’s beast was 5.4 lbs. and 591 pages, for the New York-area edition (sizes vary by region). Whereas the 1987 record-winner was six inches thick, per D’Andrea’s recollection, this one was just above two inches. The Times doesn’t keep official records for newspaper weights and page counts, but he surmises that the Sept. 13, 2015, edition was the biggest in 15 to 20 years, and perhaps even the biggest since the 12-pounder. “It’s certainly been a number of years since we’ve had a paper this big,” says D’Andrea.
More pages require more staff at the New York Times printing plant in College Point, Queens, which is the only such facility owned by the newspaper. “Dozens” of additional workers came on board to assist in the production of Sunday’s issue, says D’Andrea.
They were swamped in large part by the sudden burst of the Arts & Leisure section, which consisted this week of five sections as opposed to one (122 pages vs. about 32). Another factor was a large “T” magazine. Once the paper assembles all this scale, says D’Andrea, more advertisers like to hop on board, swelling other sections as well. Sunday Styles was about 10 pages bigger than usual and the New York Times Magazine had about 20 pages above normal, said D’Andrea.
Adding to all the madness was a special “panorama” ad wrap for the new Steve Jobs movie. That had to be printed at the College Point plant and then transported to a network of contractor printing sites around the country. All the work, says D’Andrea, is a “nice problem to have.”