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Aug. 10, 2022

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From the Newsroom: Wrapping up our busy week

By , Columbian Editor
Published:
2 Photos
Press operator Steve Fessler talks with newsroom employees about the intricacies of working The Columbian's Goss Metro offset press on Tuesday before the paper's Thanksgiving edition went to press.
Press operator Steve Fessler talks with newsroom employees about the intricacies of working The Columbian's Goss Metro offset press on Tuesday before the paper's Thanksgiving edition went to press. (Mark Bowder/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

We’re wrapping up the busiest week of the year at The Columbian tonight.

Now, it’s not the busiest week of the year for news. The week of the November general election is generally the busiest in the newsroom. But Thanksgiving is the biggest week for our entire operation.

The planning starts months ahead, with our advertising representatives reaching out to their clients to find out about their holiday plans. This week’s papers traditionally have the most advertising, particularly advertising inserts, which are scheduled a long time in advance. These large papers drive a bunch of our business decisions, from warehouse leases to newsroom deadlines to delivery operations.

This year was particularly challenging because advertisers — retail stores — were unsure about their plans due to supply shortages and shipping delays. If a store advertised it would have the hottest toy in town, but the shipment from the overseas factory didn’t arrive, that retailer would be embarrassed or worse.

Eventually, the advertising schedule got sorted, and we were able to draw up our production plans. As in the past, we printed our Thanksgiving newspaper very early so we had extra time to assemble it and get it out the door.

For the newsroom, the process started the morning of Nov. 19. We had a 10 a.m. deadline for local copy for the Life section to be due to the copy desk. That’s also the time that the dummies were due from our prepress department. (A dummy is a mock-up of a page of the paper, showing the positions of advertising and what’s left over for the newsroom to fill.)

Our copy editors put together the Life section that Friday afternoon, and then we repeated the process Monday afternoon for the A and C sections, with the local A1 centerpiece due at 10 a.m.

Meanwhile, the sports department produced its pages featuring all-region teams from the fall sports season. Because Greg Jayne was on vacation, I put together a Thursday editorial page.

It’s worth mentioning we had to pay special attention to the content. We couldn’t use any stories with breaking or developing news, or else the follow-up story in the Wednesday paper would be newer than the Thursday news. I also didn’t want any bad news or overly political stories on the Thanksgiving Day front page.

Around 10 o’clock Tuesday morning, several of us walked back to the pressroom to watch the press start on the A and C sections. Even after 40 years in the news business I still enjoy it. When everything is ready to go, a warning buzzer makes a ragged noise, and red lights flash on each of the press units. There’s a click, and the web of paper that is wound through the gigantic machine starts to move ever so slowly.

The hum picks up, and suddenly the first smudges of ink appear on the web of clean newsprint. As the press begins to whir, the ink smudges become words and images. The press operators pull a paper from the stream, examine it, then twist knobs and flick switches. When they’re satisfied everything looks perfect, they dial up the speed.

The internet will always have the latest news, but it will never have that roar.

The final assembly of the Thanksgiving edition occurred on Wednesday morning in the packaging department. Some of the newspapers began to appear in stores by Wednesday evening — a lot of nonsubscribers pick up a Thanksgiving paper, so we want to get on the newsstands before people go home. We also gave carriers the option to deliver their papers early, so they could get some sleep and be with their families Thursday.

The week’s remaining papers were also big, requiring slightly early press starts Thursday, Friday and tonight. Late news and sports will be posted to our website.

It’s a lot of work to put out newspapers on Thanksgiving week, but we’re proud to do it. I hope you enjoy reading them.

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