Editorial: Apologies are in order

The date was Thursday, Sept. 12. But, more appropriately, it should have been Friday the 13th. I’m talking about the date that last week’s Rappahannock News was published. Or not published!

And so apologies are in order to all our loyal readers who did not get the Sept. 12 edition of the newspaper until a day later than usual. In this instance, apologies are easier than explanations. (Too often nowadays it’s the other way around!)

When papers like ours had their own printing presses, many years ago, there would be no one to blame but ourselves. But those days are long gone — with the only visible reminder being the old linotype machine that sits perched, inoperative and antique-like, outside our Little Washington office building.

Around a quarter century ago, this newspaper’s owner at the time, Nick Arundel, made the emotionally difficult but easy business decision to “get out of the printing business” and sell the presses located in Warrenton. When the Rappahannock News was itself sold in 2009, it was being printed at the Gannett plant at Springfield in northern Virginia.

We then made the decision to use a printer closer to home and not so big, a small business not unlike the Rappahannock News itself. Located in Woodstock, just across the Blue Ridge, the printer is called Narrow Passage Press. The name derives from a small tributary of the North Fork of the Shenandoah.

Every Wednesday the stories we write and pictures we take are transmitted digitally, via Internet connections, across the mountain, to be printed that very evening. Early the next morning the printed papers are delivered to the post office for same-day delivery to subscribers. Other newspapers are delivered directly to our office, around 4 a.m., so that Jan Clatterbuck and her crew of carriers can load up their cars with papers to take to all the news racks and stores for sale by 7 a.m.

Last week the routine that we had come to take for granted broke down. We can blame the printer, the printer can blame us; it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we let down our loyal readers, who rely upon Thursday morning’s paper to punctuate the week.

Apologetic and embarrassed we certainly are. But also, I must confess, there is comfort — cold though it may be — in fielding all the puzzled queries and worried phone calls, realizing how valued Thursday’s paper is each week.

Walter Nicklin