Going to Press

USA Today

Producing a daily newspaper is both difficult and complex — all the elements from copy to pictures, from editorial material to classifieds have to come together on time, every time without fail. And it's even more crucial when your newspaper has a huge national circulation — deadlines just don't wait. That's why at USA Today, "The Nation's Newspaper," key elements of the production process are tracked by an application built in FileMaker Pro, the award–winning database software application from FileMaker Inc.


  • Tracking work in the complicated pre–press procedures for a major national newspaper once meant filling in tiresome paper forms. But at USA Today, a work tracking system built around FileMaker Pro means that every step in the prepress process is documented easily, effectively, and efficiently — and FileMaker's user–friendliness reduces the learning curve for new users.


  • Medium–Large Business
  • Printing/Publishing

Business Challenge

For more than twenty years, millions of readers from coast to coast begin their day with USA Today. And while its flashy graphics and nationwide scope were heralded as a technological breakthrough in the early 1980s — certain elements in its production were still performed by methods little removed from the days of copy boys and hot lead. And while the masthead proclaimed — "by Satellite!" — prepress work, for example, still meant filling in old–fashioned paper forms.

Then, some eight years ago, that all changed, when Prepress Systems Administrator Miles Weissman decided to bring in FileMaker Pro. Miles had worked with FileMaker for several years on his own, and felt that the software could make a difference in the work tracking procedure. The introduction of FileMaker didn't just happen, though — there were obstacles to overcome, questions to resolve. "Integration with our other systems was one issue," Miles comments, "especially SQL integration. Getting IT approval was another concern."

But every problem has a solution. "We bought a SQL plug–in," says Miles, and the result was very functional."

Successful Solution

Today, work tracking and job scheduling for USA Today's prepress and advertising operations are carried out in Captain, a FileMaker Pro–based application. "Ads are received by Advertising Operations (AdOps) and information about the ad is entered into their Ad Management System – AMS, a custom AS/400 database," Miles explains. "Captain is used to pull production specific information from AMS via a SQL plug–in. AdOps uses Captain to print out a job ticket, delivers the ad to Production, and updates the ad record to indicate the ad's new location."

FileMaker is very user friendly and requires minimal training. It's relatively easy to implement for workgroup use.

— Steve Terrillion, USA Today, Director of Prepress Operations

Every step of every complex job involved in bringing each day's issue to press is tracked and documented easily, with speed, and accuracy. "In production, when someone starts working on the ad, they update Captain with the operator's name, and that the ad is being worked on," Miles continues. "When the ad is completed and checked, Captain is again updated to indicate the ad's completion, with time completed." The convenience and power of the system allow easy prioritization of work assignments, and easy backtracking of the work flow ensures that when problems arise on a given ad, they can be followed to the source. The system also allows managers to analyze daily work performance trends.

Customer Benefits

FileMaker Pro fits smoothly into the daily routine. "FileMaker is very user friendly," says Director of Prepress Operations Steve Terrillion, "and requires minimal training, It's relatively easy to implement for workgroup use." Currently, he says, five workgroups are using the system, encompassing ten to twenty databases with up to 65,000 records.

When there's work to be done, and when there's a newspaper to hit the street — USA Today knows that the power of FileMaker Pro is front page news.

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.

For USA Today:

Steve Terrillion
Director of Prepress Operations
USA Today