- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Beyond-the-newsroom workers key to mission

It's just after 1:15 a.m. as a white van pulls away from the loading dock at The Washington Times at the eastern end of New York Avenue NE, carrying 300 copies of the first edition. The "flash run" has begun.
It's a critical starting point in the daily delivery cycle, putting news from The Times in the hands of targeted newsmakers and other news organizations in Washington and newsrooms around the world.
The White House, the Pentagon, the Associated Press, the television networks and news radio, among others, get this early edition hot (or at least damp) off the presses in the wee hours to give The Times its long reach and powerful punch in the information marketplace. By the time dawn breaks over the Potomac, the newspaper's exclusives will be the buzz in certain precincts of London and Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and points between.
For everyone who works at The Times, it's a great start to the new day when WTOP-AM or another news station leads its rush-hour broadcast with the words, "The Washington Times reports this morning "
The number of mentions of, and attributions to, The Times each year in other news media more than doubled, to 9,400, in the past three years. That's not only because other news organizations look to The Times for breaking stories, but because the newspaper makes it easier for them to get early editions and, like other news organizations in the white-hot competitive atmosphere of the most important capital of the world, aggressively promotes what in an earlier era were called "scoops."
Reporters, photographers, editors and others work hard, fast and late to assemble the news of the day on unforgiving deadlines. For every one of the 230 newsroom employees of The Times, though, there are three others toiling in other ways behind the scenes. Without them, there would be no newspaper.
Press operators, advertising salespersons, computer technicians, circulation and maintenance workers, security officers, administrative staff and by no means least the driver on that early-morning run are crucial to keeping The Times in business and ensuring that the paper is delivered to readers each morning. A newspaper is famously called "the daily miracle," and it's easy to see why when calculating the skills and duties that merge to accomplish a common goal, day in and day out.
Richard H. "Dick" Amberg Jr., vice president and general manager of The Times, oversees the hundreds of tasks beyond the newsroom with the goal of approaching something close to harmony in achieving the daily miracle.
This "business side" of the operation encompasses advertising, circulation, marketing, production, facilities, human resources and computer services. Mr. Amberg, who joined The Times in late 1998, is a Harvard graduate and retired captain in the Naval Reserve with more than 35 years in the newspaper business.
"The Times has a unique opportunity in our nation's capital to be a force for public good. Many significant things were ignored or underreported before The Times showed up on the scene, and we've filled an important gap," he says.
It's the quality of news reporting and commentary that sells The Times, but, as at any newspaper, it's the paid advertising that covers the enormous operating expenses of a metropolitan daily and is expected to provide a profit to the owners.
Advertising accounts for fully 80 percent of revenue, telling readers about goods and services for sale, all the while kept in strict separation from news and opinion columns.
One important source of advertising for The Times, no surprise given its influential readership in official Washington, is "advocacy" advertising either in a standard display format in the news pages or in special advertising sections, clearly identified as such and inserted separately. The Times publishes more column inches of advocacy advertising than almost any other newspaper in America.
Washington is one of the few remaining major U.S. media markets with two viable metropolitan dailies. The Times, however, also must compete for advertising with dozens of print, broadcast, cable and other media outlets, including small urban and suburban papers.
"Working at The Washington Times has been challenging and rewarding," says Mike Mahr, director of advertising for 10 years. "We can't rely on people calling us to place ads, so every ad that runs in the newspaper takes a sales effort, and that makes for a strong sales organization."
The other major source of revenue, of course, is the readers, either home-delivery subscribers or those who pick up a single copy for a quarter from the familiar orange vending machines or stacks of newspapers in grocery and convenience stores or on newsstands.
Some 300 delivery men and women begin distributing The Times to readers' doorsteps and driveways early each morning after those 7.5 million pages are printed from the enormous blank rolls of newsprint placed on the presses late at night. Each of 3,600 vending machines must be restocked and ready for the customer who wants to grab The Times on the way to work or during a lunch break.
Art Farber, director of circulation, has made impressive gains since he joined The Times in 1999. Switching from a long-standing focus on single-copy sales, Mr. Farber aggressively goes after home-delivery subscribers and works hard to keep them. He doubled the subscriber base with hard-to-resist long-term rates and improved customer service.
"When I arrived at The Times," Mr. Farber says, "I decided we had to take a look at finding the right formula that could provide our newspaper at an attractive price, build on our subscriber base, ensure our customers are pleased with their purchase and increase revenue. And so far, we've been able to do that."
Mr. Farber hasn't forgotten the single-copy customer, who responds to the exclusive reporting and lively front page on display in those orange vending machines. He is working to improve distribution and install more vending machines.
"Job one" for David N. Coleman, director of production since 1995, is successful printing of The Times each night, but he also is in charge of the company's commercial printing operations.
Only a production guy like Mr. Coleman would respond like this when asked for a favorite memory at The Times: "The first time I saw the four-unit Goss Urbanite printing press and press upgrade produce 12-page, four-color newspaper sections. These are a couple of the finest presses of their class in the country."
Computer services, supervised by 20-year veteran Sara A. Cooperrider, is a critical lifeline that keeps The Times humming along more or less without interruption.
"The computers on the desk of each reporter today are hundreds of times more powerful than the systems we began with in the early '80s. As a result, the expectations of technology are that much greater as well," Mrs. Cooperrider says.
The marketing department works with the heads of advertising, circulation and editorial "to grow the business," in the jargon of the marketers, looking for innovative ways to heighten public awareness and thus boost circulation and ad count. (And bring a smile to the face of Keith Cooperrider, whose job as controller for 19 years has been "making sure there is enough money to pay the bills.")
Marketing's ventures include participation in the Newspaper in Education program, corporate sponsorship of the Out of the Past Revue antique auto show and co-sponsorship of other community and charity causes.
A marketing and media consultant, Melissa S. Hopkins, has worked with the newsroom in recent years to increase the exposure of its exclusives. Other news organizations must be told of exclusives in advance to ensure that wire services, radio and television stations credit The Times by name with breaking a big story. Thus that white van with copies of the newspaper that departs at 1:15 a.m., bound for some carefully chosen stops.


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