Black tape mystery solved: It's part of the printing process

Reader Marvyn Lindsey found it "bizarre" that a long piece of black tape was blocking part of the book review he wanted to read.


Marilyn Dixon wondered how a length of the tape ended up across two pages in her Business section. "I just thought it was sort of an odd thing," she said. "Is it part of publishing, and how did it get in my paper?"

Sally Eply found a section of black tape on the editorial page and asked, simply, "Why?"

It wasn't censorship, as other readers have feared.

And yes, the tape is part of publishing – specifically the printing process, explained Russ Newton, Times senior vice president of operations. It's used to time the rolls of paper used on the press.

"When one roll is ready to expire, we index a second roll back so that it is close to the expiring roll," Newton said. "The new roll is spun up to match the speed, then a complicated series of steps result in the new roll being 'pasted'  onto the expiring roll."

The video, above, which Newton readily shares with readers, shows the process. At the beginning, black tape is visible on the bottom roll before it starts spinning.

Newton says the tape alerts a sensor on the press where to paste and cut the roll.

Dixon was grateful for the explanation. And she insisted there was no need for a replacement paper; she'd just borrow the Business section from a friend.

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