Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Oct. 27, 2021

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From the Newsroom: Driven by our daily deadlines

By , Columbian Editor

The news business runs a little bit like the airlines. We set a time schedule, then try like crazy every day to meet it.

It’s always been that way. Even though we can post stories on our website at any time of the day or night, we still use deadlines for our print edition, and we still schedule our day around press times. I thought I would share some of those times with you, picking a hypothetical weekday:

• 6:30 a.m. — Reporter Jerzy Shedlock arrives in the newsroom. Jerzy is part of our three-person breaking news team. He’ll start by checking for overnight news from police and fire agencies, then check our general email address,, where we ask people to send news releases and news tips. If he finds anything, he’ll write up an item and post it immediately. But let’s assume this is a slow day, so he’ll next check the wire services and post any big or breaking regional, national or international stories. He’ll scan the police log, monitor the local morning TV newscasts, and check competitors’ news sites to make sure we are up to date.

• 8 a.m. — Web Editor Amy Libby arrives and dives into the web, posting additional stories, monitoring content, and tending our busy social media channels.

• 9 a.m. — Reporters, editors and photographers start drifting into the newsroom. There are exceptions. Most of the copy editors work a swing shift, when there are stories to be read and print pages to be designed. And everyone in the sports department (with the exception of outdoors writer Terry Otto) also works afternoons and evenings, when sporting events occur.

• 10 a.m. — We hold our morning news meeting. Metro Editor Mark Bowder goes over the lineup for the next day’s printed paper and talks briefly about the following day. Photo Editor Amanda Cowan goes over the photo assignments, making sure that photos are assigned for stories that need them. News Editor Merridee Hanson, who runs the copy desk, checks on graphics and offers advice. Features Editor Erin Middlewood gives her report, as does Libby. Assistant Metro Editor Jessica Prokop talks about any breaking news. By the time the meeting is over, we have our plans for the next day or two.

• 1 p.m. — Assistant News Editor Colleen Keller arrives at work. Colleen leads our copy editing effort and on most days doubles as wire editor, sorting content from our news services, flagging stories for various parts of the paper and putting together a list of potential front-page stories from the region, the nation and the world. She will present this budget at the afternoon news meeting.

• 3:30 p.m. — Front-page meeting time. This meeting involves section editors and page designers. Bowder and Keller pitch their stories for A1, and we pick our best three, or sometimes four. We choose the lead photo, and decide which stories to “tease” with a front-page promo. Finally, Libby discusses when stories will appear online. By the end of the meeting, we have a blueprint for where everything will go in the print edition and on our website.

• 6 p.m. — A peak hour of production. The last of the local news stories are being finished by the reporters and metro editors. The sports team is in high gear. The copy desk is very busy, with stories being edited and trimmed, headlines being written and pages being built.

• 10 p.m. — We should be entering the final stretch. With the news deadline past, the late-shift breaking news reporter, Jack Heffernan, heads home. Copy editors are starting to leave, but sports is at peak production as evening games conclude.

• 11:30 p.m. — Press start. The remaining copy editors quickly look at the first printed copies of the paper. Are there any egregious mistakes? If so, we’ll stop the press to fix them. If not, they will call it a day.

• Midnight — With the paper put to bed, it’s time for us to go to bed too. We’ll see you in the morning!