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Computer Virus Blamed As Times-Union, St. Augustine Record Fail To Deliver Papers

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The Florida Times-Union
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A computer virus prevented deliveries of The Florida Times-Union Monday.

Florida Times-Union and St. Augustine Record subscribers did not receive their Monday newspapers.

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Credit The Florida Times-Union
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Times-Union subscribers did not receive their newspapers Monday, although the E-Edition was available to those who had activated their digital accounts. A screenshot from Monday's E-Edition is pictured.

Gatehouse group Publisher Bill Offill, who oversees the papers, as well as The Daytona Beach News-Journal, said the papers experienced a "catastrophic failure" computer virus that resulted in subscribers not getting their newspapers Monday. 

Subscribers who called either the Times-Union or the Record Monday to inquire about their papers were greeted with the following automated message:

“Due to a virus that affected our server we were unable to print today’s newspaper. The Monday delivery will not be made today. Your Monday paper will be included with tomorrow’s delivery. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Although the message said no newspapers were published, Offill said a few Monday papers did make it off the press.

The issue in Daytona wasn't as severe. He said the Daytona area papers were delivered about an hour-and-a-half late.

All three newspapers are owned by Gatehouse Media. Offill said he believed Gatehouse papers in Ocala, Gainesville and Lakeland were also affected to some extent.

The electronic editions and websites of the Times-Union and Record were still available Monday.

At the time of this story's publication, Offill said the papers were still working through issues, and there was a plan in place to make sure Tuesday's papers would be delivered.

A story published on the Times-Union's website Monday afternoon added this caveat, "However, a couple of regular features will be missing from Tuesday’s paper because of earlier deadlines Monday night."

WJCT, which has a news partnership with the Times-Union, was able to continue its Radio Reading Service without interruption on Monday, despite not receiving any newspapers.

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Credit Michelle Corum / WJCT News
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WJCT News
Paul Harrison, a WJCT Radio Reader for the visually impaired, reads an earlier edition of The Florida Times-Union.

The program’s volunteers, under the direction of WJCT’s Michelle Corum, read newspapers aloud each morning via a closed circuit radio station and online to visually impaired residents of the First Coast.

Corum said the volunteers were able to read Times-Union stories from their phones and iPads. 

“At the end of the reading time, we just said, ‘Hey, we got through the day without any printer’s ink on us,’” Corum said. 

Gatehouse Media purchased the Times-Union and Record from the Morris family of Augusta, Ga., in 2017. Since that time the Times-Union has gone through a series of layoffs, and the paper's Jacksonville presses were shut down and dismantled. Remaining non-management newsroom staff voted to unionize.

Last week, the newspaper completed its move from its longtime home at 1 Riverside Ave.  in Brooklyn to the Wells Fargo tower at 1 Independent Drive downtown. 

WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported the Times-Union’s Sunday circulation at last report was down to 46,988.  The St. Augustine Record’s Sunday circulation was 9,908.  

Sunday is historically the biggest circulation day for newspapers. 

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.