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.
"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.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.