Word Breaks

Grant Barrett gbarrett at AMERICANDIALECT.ORG
Sat May 8 13:33:17 UTC 1999

Two answers to Barry's question:

1. They could have computers and still get the bad word breaks. It
depends on how good the hyphenation dictionary is in the program they're using,
and how well they've set up their preferences.

2. Unfortunately, a lot of newspapers have integrated modern computers
into the production process as if they are merely functional substitutions
for the Linotype or Compugraphic output devices they replaced. Rather than
use the computers to compose entire WYSIWIG pages of editorial content on
screen, print it out as a single sheet, and paste it down on a board and
then add the advertisements in the empty spots, production departments will
often use computers to compose single columns of text only and then cut
the columns to fit as they paste them down on the boards/spreads/pages.
This is very similar to what was done with the old Linotype and Compugraphic
machines. If they make an error in cutting (such as slice through a word),
they may just recompose a line or two on the computer, straight across
rather than flowed in a column, print it, and then manually cut and paste it
to make it fit (that's where you can get uncomfortable breaks). That's
also why you sometimes see a line of text canted at a weird angle:
somebody's wax  hasn't held and a scrap has been knocked loose (text for paste-down
is run through a waxer to make it stick, no glue used).

Now the reason they might use the computers incorrectly, that is, not
compose the entire page on screen and print it out as a single sheet, is
largely because of union contracts. There were, and are, employees whose jobs
depended on the old technology. On-screen composition, however, would
either eliminate those jobs, or change job responsibilities. So usually what
has happened is the unions have demanded that all the employees 1) stay
employed and 2) have the right to choose not to be re-trained for a new job
(and the truth be told, some folks, after 30 years of the old method, just
can't learn the new method). Either way, they're still going to do it as
close to the old way as possible. Very inefficient and wasteful, and part
of the reason why joint operating agreements and shared presses are common.

One thing I would add is that jobs lost in a newspaper environment due to
the introduction of computers are usually balanced by new jobs such as
computer technicians, network specialists, computer layout artists, digital
scanner users, digital photo retouchers and reporters specializing in
computer-aided reporting. Unfortunately, there is no natural transition from
the old non-computer jobs to the new ones. It's the same number of jobs,
but different people doing them.

Barry A. Popik wrote:
 } BREA-KS (continued)
}     In today's DAILY NEWS, pg. 110, in a story about the end of the New
} Jersey Nets' basketball season:
} wra-
} pup
}     I was thinking--what kind of a pup is that?  Oh, a wra-pup!

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