By Ken Ward Jr.
The Charleston Gazette uses a lot of paper.
First off, there's the newsprint. Lots and lots of newsprint.
The Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail, which have combined production services, use about 9,500 tons of newsprint every year. That's more than 180 tons every week, or 27 tons each day.
Then, there's office paper. Like any business, office personnel - from the publisher down to clerks - use reams of paper for memos, letters and the like.
Reporters take lots of notes. Some take their notes on the computer screen when they do interviews over the phone.
But most of the time, when they're out talking to people for stories, reporters use spiral notebooks. And sometimes, when reporters take notes on their computers, they print out the notes before writing their stories.
Editors use a lot of paper, too. There's a running newsroom joke about Editor James A. Haught printing out a dozen copies of every assignment he makes. And other editors print out dozens of pages of budgets - lists of each day's possible stories - for their daily planning meetings.
Reporters and editors get a lot of junk mail, too. The newsroom fax machine churns out press releases and mung contest entries practically 24 hours a day.
Then there's the huge amount of government reports, books and various studies reporters use to produce stories.
The documents used in this series on the timber industry, for example, fill a filing cabinet shelf and two boxes. Dozens of notepads were used in reporting for the series. An editor and writing coach preferred to review "hard copies" of the stories, rather than read them on the computer screen.
So it would seem understandable for some people to say the newspaper is hypocritical to be writing about the need to reduce pressure on forests by using less paper.
But newspaper officials say they are trying to make a difference, by using recycled newsprint and by recycling as much as possible.
Rick Meek, production director for Charleston Newspapers, is in charge of recycling programs for the company. Charleston Newspapers is the joint venture that handles production, advertising and circulation for the Gazette and Daily Mail.
"We recycle just about everything we can," Meek said.
All newspapers that are read in the building are recycled, as is waste newsprint. That amounts to about 200,000 pounds of newsprint every year, Meek said.
Charleston Newspapers also recycles office paper, computer paper and some corrugated material, Meek said.
Every year, the company recycles 20,000 pounds of computer paper, 20,000 pounds of office waste paper and 100,000 pounds of corrugated materials, Meek said.
Charleston Newspapers uses newsprint that includes some recycled fibers. The amount of recycled fibers usually ranges from 10 percent to 30 percent, Meek said.
The question of recycled newsprint is complicated, however. Newsprint can be recycled only so many times. The more virgin newsprint you use, the more easily that newsprint can be recycled and kept out of landfills, said Gazette Publisher Craig Selby.
If you use a higher percentage of recycled fibers, the chances you can recycle your newsprint drops. This means more of it ends up in landfills. And Selby said for a number of years one of the pressures on the newspaper was to reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfills.
Two of three mills where Charleston Newspapers buys its newsprint do not use chlorine compound bleaching that produces dioxins. The other, a Bowater mill in Tennessee, does use chlorine dioxide bleaching, according to a company spokesman.
A fourth newsprint supplier being added in January does not use chlorine bleach, Selby said.
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