How to make a newspaper, in just one week
Who does what at our award-winning weekly papers
From time to time I like to lift the mysterious veil of complicated, magical technology that we use every week to produce a newspaper and let you, the average person, get a peek behind the scenes.
First of all, let me remind you of my credentials and my experience.
I've been a professional newspaper-making guy since the summer of 1974, when I landed my first job as a reporter for the Tigard Times. Since then, I've been a reporter, photographer, editor, manager, public speaker and general all-around journalism know-it-all. I've written straight news, features, editorials, photo captions, headlines, memos, emails, to-do lists and smart-aleck columns that have appeared in monthly, weekly and daily papers as well as online.
I also give tours of the office to visitors, which is perhaps my finest role because it affords me the opportunity to talk about all aspects of the newspaper business, even the parts I have no actual knowledge of.
Enough small talk. Let's get to the nitty gritty.
Here at the Times newspapers, our week begins Thursday morning. That's when our papers come out, and that's when we hold a little gathering we like to call 'The News Meeting.'
The News Meeting is run by the two editors: Christina Lent of the Beaverton Valley Times and Jessie Kirk of The Times (serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood).
It also features reporters Geoffrey (pronounced Jeff-ree) Pursinger (purse-injur), who covers Tigard; Alana Kansaku-Sarmiento (pronounced the way it looks), a feisty little Hawaiian-Italian person who covers Tualatin; Shannon Wells (a guy, not a girl, even though he has a girl's name), who covers Beaverton; Ray Pitz, editor of the Sherwood Gazette, who covers (duh) Sherwood; and me - I do the Living Here section, put together most of our special sections (home improvement, gift guides, etc.) and write this hilarious thing you're looking at right now every other week.
Photographer Jaime Valdez also attends The News Meeting, mainly so he can criticize the editors for not running enough photos and/or not making them big enough.
We all come to The News Meeting with our ideas of what should be in the following week's papers - with the possible exception of a couple of us who sometimes forget to think up ideas for next week or, in one or two cases, just have trouble focusing. In those cases, the editors have been known to think up plenty of extra ideas, which they are willing to share - not unlike your mom used to do ('if you can't think of anything to do, buster, I'll think up some things for you!').
Then, after The News Meeting, we all go to lunch, which, for me, is the highlight of the week.
Right after Thursday's lunch, of course, we dive right into our interviews and organizing for all the stories we're going to put in the following week's papers. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Oh, that's a good one.
Well, some of us dive right in. Then there are others who just leave, and we don't actually know where they go.
Another key person I didn't mention, because she doesn't come to The News Meeting, is Mary Ratcliff, the lady with the British accent who (A) sounds like the queen of England and (B) gathers and puts together the important pieces of the Living Here section. This includes obituaries (which, I'd like to add, is the single most important thing in our newspapers), our Out and About listings and the assorted weddings, engagements, anniversaries, Scout news, military news, school news, college notes, reunion notices and any number of other little tidbits that find their way into a weekly paper.
Mary believes her contribution to the paper is not valued, but of course she's completely wrong. Just because nobody ever says it's important doesn't mean it's not valued. Besides, we worry about giving her too big a head. After all, when someone does send a note complimenting Mary's handling of an obituary or something, she always runs off several dozen copies of it and leaves them on every desk in the building, including the very top bosses.
Also not mentioned here are our two sports guys - Miles Vance, who does all the Beaverton-area sports, and Dan Brood, who handles Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood. They have found, over the years, that the less association with the rest of us, the better.
Anyway, for the next few days, we all talk to people on the phone, visit them in person for interviews, spy on them from cars parked in the shadows, sit in public meetings (where we either do Soduko puzzles or consult our smartphones) and eavesdrop on conversations at schools, city halls and police stations - until we have enough information to fill up a newspaper.
Then we go back to the office (or sit with a laptop at Starbucks) and write it all up. Once the stories are in, the editors carefully read them, change the outright lies and fabrications to simple half-truths and then put them on electronic simulations of newspaper pages in our big fancy computers, look them over and hit 'send.'
This all happens on Wednesday, which is our 'deadline' day. That word has an interesting history, which actually means, 'If you don't get that story done in five minutes, Bub, you're dead!'
The papers go to press Wednesday afternoon. And, by 'go to press,' I mean we put the finished pages in a folder in the computer, a couple of guys downstairs take them out, put the ads and the news together on a single document and then send the whole shebang to Salem, where our presses are.
And, perhaps most amazing of all, after being printed in Salem overnight, the papers are trucked back up here, taken to the Post Office and magically delivered to your house on Thursday.
Really. That fast.
Thursday, naturally, is complaint day. That's when people get mad about misspelled names, distorted facts, lying officials and the fact that we ran the wrong ad - all the things that make newspaper reading almost like an aerobic activity, which, of course, we all know is good for you.