Computer Glitch Takes Down Four New Zealand Newspapers

It is a prospect that frightens every media company: a critical computer system problem that brings down your production operations. That is what apparently happened yesterday afternoon to Fairfax Media, which proclaims itself "Australasia's leading media company."

According to online media reports, a serious computer fault around 16:15 yesterday took down the media company's production system. This meant that its four major morning papers, "including Christchurch's The Press, The Dominion Post, Southland Times and Timaru Herald were not published this morning," reported an article on the Web site Stuff.co.nz (which is itself published by Fairfax New Zealand). Stories that were to appear in the papers appeared on each of the papers' Web sites instead.

The Stuff article reported that the morning paper Taranaki Daily News was published using a different computer system, albeit in modified form.

An article in the New Zealand Herald says that Fairfax Media's afternoon papers, the Waikato Times, the Manawatu Standard, the Nelson Mail, and the Marlborough Express, would be published today using a different production system but in reduced length.

Fairfax Media CEO Allen Williams apologized for the outage, calling it "incredibly disappointing."

Exactly what happened or why has not been explained, but as the Herald noted, the recent New Zealand earthquakes did not stop The Press from publishing. Everything is expected to be back to normal operations tomorrow.

By coincidence, a computer glitch last week at the Toronto Star, Canada's most widely read newspaper, forced the paper to publish a reduced Thursday edition. According to a UPI story,

"An internal computer glitch took down the Star's e-mail, Internet and internal computer applications used to create newspaper and web pages and build advertisements for more than four hours yesterday... We are sorry for any inconvenience to both our readers and advertisers."

The Toronto Star did not disclose what caused its computer problems, either.

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