Honey, they shrunk The Special. If you’re keeping score at home or adding to a collection you’ve kept in your basement over the years, yes The Special is smaller this year.
Not thinner, with fewer pages or less content, just smaller. The overall page size shrunk to a more traditional newspaper tabloid size and is 10 inches wide by 10.5 inches tall. We used to be taller and a little wider – at 11 inches by 15. What’s that mean for you, besides making it easier to put the papers on a shelf (though we’d suggest attic over basement) or in your pocket? Not much, really, and we hope you’re used to it by now.
The change came with a move to a new printer. The Albany Times-Union’s printing division now produces The Saratoga Special every night in Colonie. Last year, the Times-Union installed a state-of-the-art press and the results are fairly obvious – more color, better reproduction and a cleaner finished product. You’ll get less ink on your hands. The size change was done to bring The Special more into line with standard newsprint sizes, speed the printing process and make the whole thing more practical. It’s not easy printing a daily newspaper. Using a standard paper size makes it all a little more do-able.
The Special started in 2001, before the Internet as we now know it was even a thing. We produced pages on a computer, like we do now except for the digital scanning our photographers had to do. When finished, we put the pages on a disc (sometimes a CD, other times something called a zip disc which was rewriteable) and drove them to Staffield Printing in Clifton Park, where we waited for the presses to spit out the finished product, loaded papers in a car and headed back to Saratoga. We worked with Jim, Jan and several others whose names escape me and they were great. They thought we were crazy. We stayed up ALL night, slept on boxes in their office or under tables in ours.
Eventually, Staffield sold out to Tech Valley Printing in Watervliet. Bigger, better, faster, cooler. It was still Jim and Jan for a while, then a revolving cast. We never saw the place, thanks to the internet discovering cable and the improvement in pre-press technology. Pages got made and transmitted without discs and without cars. We got a little – a little – more sleep, and the printer delivered to Saratoga.
Tech Valley went bankrupt in 2008, abruptly closing shop after rapid growth and then even more rapid decline. The people we worked with lost their jobs one day when management basically locked the doors, and the press and all its equipment were sold at an auction. It felt like a bomb dropping. Blam, no printer and if the printer went out of business how were we supposed to make it?
We moved our business to Gloversville, home of The Leader Herald newspaper. The town is a 45-minute drive due west from Saratoga Springs on Route 29. We never made that trek, but our papers did it for six years, faithfully. We also never met the staff there, which is a shame. Another Jim, Travis, Tim and a bunch of other voices on the end of the phone and I’m sure I don’t have that right. At night, I’d call to check on the pages and talk jobs, vacations, sports, whatever with “Jim at The Leader.” I always thought we’d get together at some point for a beer or dinner or something.
This year we made a change. I hated to do it, because the Leader Herald couldn’t have been a better business partner. They were flexible, efficient, easy to work with, friendly.
But the Times-Union’s finished product is great and there’s an awful lot of upside to working with a printer that’s closer to Saratoga, part of a bigger company (Hearst Newspapers) and runs a brand new $15 million printing press. Thanks to photographer Skip Dickstein, we made some initial connections and put together a schedule. We work with Dan, Chris, Jason (actually two Jasons I believe) and several others. No we don’t have to drive anything anywhere – God bless Time Warner Business Class – though there has been a bit of a learning curve like there is with anything new.
So, yes we shrunk The Special. But in size only.