Subscribe to the FREE Newsletter     

Help Support
Newspaper Production 1992

(Based on information supplied by David M. Levine, NCSA Member #225)

Unless one is currently working for a newspaper, few realize just how complex of an operation publishing has become. Major city newspapers employ literally thousands of people. Even small town newspapers employ a dozen or more people. Just what do all of these people do? I will relate a brief glimpse at just what, or rather whom, it takes to put out a daily newspaper in 1992. (To go into any amount of detail, it would fill not only this entire issue of Collectible Newspapers, but undoubtedly a work of 1,000 pages or more.)

The major source of revenue for any newspaper is still advertising -- subscriber fees barely make a dent in the revenue needed to continue publishing. Without enough paid advertising, a newspaper will cease to exist. The advertising department is made up of two divisions; classified and retail.

The classified ad department is the one that is most familiar to most. When we call the newspaper office to place an ad to announce a garage sale or sell some used equipment, the Ad Service Clerk is who we talk to concerning the wording we want our ad to say. These clerks are often trained to help the advertiser in selecting the proper wording and classification to produce the best results.

While we are all familiar with what is deemed "retail advertising" -- these are the large ads on almost all pages of the newspaper. These ads are for businesses such as grocery stores, department stores, movie houses, and so forth. It is the revenue from these ads that makes or breaks a newspaper financially. A Retail Ad Department is comprised of many highly skilled workers. Though the exact titles will vary from newspaper to newspaper, one such example is an "Graphic/Layout Artist." Their job is to design the display ads for their clients. Yes design! What words are larger and bolder than others? Which words can go in smaller type at the bottom. What words go in what font? What graphic elements to use, and so forth. A poorly designed ad will not produce results and lack of results will not bring the client back for more ads.

After the ad is designed -- usually quick sketches in pencil -- the copy, along with "specs" (what point size of type, which fonts, etc.) is sent to a typographer. This person, using a computer, typesets the ad. The two people often need to go back and forth to resolve potential problems in the compatibility of the ad. For example, "48 point type will not fit on one line", or "Futura clashes with the other font used." An ad can go through several revisions before a final copy is accepted.

Another integral member of the Advertising Department is the Co-op Coordinator. When a local store runs an ad for a national brand product, in most cases, the manufacturer will help share expenses of the ad. For example, if a local automotive store offers, along with other products, a special on Quaker State Motor Oil, often the local store will qualify for some funding from the makers of Quaker State to help pay for the ad. This funding, usually, is only a small percentage of the ad costs but it certainly helps the retailer. The Co-op Coordinator is well versed in just which companies offer co-op funding on which products and under what circumstances. In many cases, the local retailer hadnšt been aware of such funding due them until the Co-op Coordinator advises them.

Another important person in the Advertising Department is the Account Executive. In larger newspapers, there is one or more for classified ads and one or more for retail advertising. These people travel from business to business soliciting businesses to advertise in their newspaper. A major city newspaper like Philadelphia or New York City will have literally dozens of these Account Executives.

Major newspapers also have a National Advertising Coordinator. These people actively seek advertisers of national brands to place their own ads for their products. We have all seen ads in the daily newspaper for say a certain brand of cereal with a coupon good for so many cents off on a box. In all likelihood, it was the National Advertising Coordinator that secured this ad.

The area we are most familiar with is the Editorial Department. (Nowadays, "Editorial" refers to all reading material in a newspaper except ads -- It is not strictly the editorial page.) The job title in this department that we all recognize is that of a reporter. A typical figure is one reporter for every 1,000 readers of the newspaper. Yes! A newspaper with 80,000 readers might have 80 reporters on their staff. Not all are full time however.

The next title we are most familiar with is that of "Editor". Even a smaller newspaper will have several editors. Some examples are Metro Editor (local news), Features Editor (the in-depth articles usually, but not always, in the Sunday editions), Lifestyles Editor (Food, Fashion, Entertainment, etc.), National News Editor, Financial Editor, Business Editor, Editorial Page Editor and so forth. Major newspapers like the New York Times will have dozens of editors. They are the boss of their respective departments and the one responsible when ANYTHING goes wrong on their respective pages! While the exact title varies from newspaper to newspaper, the Managing Editor is the boss of all the editors.

The Copy Editor performs many tasks of which the public sees the results the most. Included are proofreading, verifying accuracy of articles, writing headlines and, designing the layout of each page. A major city newspaper might break the City Editor's job into several divisions with one or more people doing each task.Also included in the Editorial Department, of course, are photographers, graphic artists, and any number of secretaries.

Another major department of a newspaper is the Composing Room. It is this area where the reporter's words are actually typeset and output in column-wide strips. In addition, many of the retail display ads are typeset in this department.

After the words are typeset and output, technicians will affix them to larger sheets of paper in the manner that the reader finally sees the page.

The Camera/Platemaker Technician takes film negatives of the forms from the Composing Room. These negatives are, in turn, used to make printing plates. The negatives are exposed to a light sensitive plastic which "burns" the image of the words and graphics on the page into the plate. In most cases, today's printing plates are made out of a light weight plastic which is recycled into other byproducts. Two pages are usually contained on each plate.

If Ben Franklin or other early printers were to see the presses used to print newspapers today they would not believe such a miracle could exist. Today's presses are several stories tall and occupy thousands upon thousands of square feet. They not only print the pages, but they also collate, fold and trim them. On the front end is a roll of newsprint thousands of feet long that weighs about one ton each. On the other end, the completed newspaper emerges into neat stacks.

Once the newspapers are printed they move on to the Distribution Department. This department -- depending on how large the circulation of the newspaper is -- contains from a few dozen to hundreds of employees. The most familiar of this department is the newsboy -- or newsgirl these days! Usually, a paperboy will have 40 subscribers on their route.

The paperboy, of course, is not the only means of distributing the newspaper. With urban sprawl, Motor Carrier Routes have been established. These are adults that do much the same as the familiar paperboy except they deliver their papers on a regular basis by car through the middle of the night. A Motor Carrier will usually have a route of approximately 200 subscribers.

A third means of distributing newspapers to readers is by way of trucks. Separate drivers have routes to deliver bundles to newsstands, newsboy sub-stations and, Racks.

A little-known job in the Distribution Department is that of the Rack Technician. "Racks" are those metal boxes on street corners and in front of stores that are coin operated and contain a dozen or more of today's papers. A newspaper with as few as 40,000 subscribers will employ at least one repair technician full time.

Another major department is that of Circulation. Among other duties, these people keep track of subscriber orders and often actively solicit new subscribers.

The Business Department is another important area of a newspaper. These people include Accounts Payable (money owed to the newspaper), Accounts Receivable (money the newspaper owes to suppliers), Payroll Accountant, other accountants, Administrative Secretaries, Marketing personnel, and others.