How Newspaper Newsrooms Work

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Information about How Newspaper Newsrooms Work
News & Politics

Published on February 24, 2009

Author: starrjulie



An overview of the newspaper production process from story idea to publication. Intended as a prompt for introductory discussion about newsroom roles and processes. This is a little dated now, but the basics are still right. Feedback welcome.

The newspaper newsroom

How the newsroom appears to work... Few people have been into a working newsroom. So, for many, the machinations behind their daily newspaper or news website look a bit like this:

How the newsroom appears to work...

Tappety tap tap Reporters get on the phone, talk to a few sources.... and write the story.

Magic Magic happens...

And hey presto the newspaper appears the next day. In reality, there’s a bit more to it.

How the newsroom actually works... Newsrooms are all different - some are big, some small; some publish once a day, some once a week; some publish online and on the radio as well as in print, others stick to print. But while the size of the newsroom may change, and the titles people have in the newsroom may vary, the fundamentals of how a newspaper is published are the same everywhere.

How the newsroom actually works...

Okay, give me 350 words I’ve got a great story from one of my contacts. The starting point is the story idea. The reporter may come up with a story idea - maybe from talking to a contact, reading a council agenda, observing something on the way to work - and pitch it to the chief reporter, whose job is to oversee what all the reporters are doing. Sometimes the chief reporter will assign one or more stories to the reporter. Often those stories will have come from the News Diary - a carefully maintained calendar of newsworthy events such as conferences, court cases, sporting events, concerts and parliamentary proceedings. Chief Reporter Reporter

News Conference The chief reporter will take the day’s story ideas to the news conference. There are generally two conferences a day, one early in the day and one closer to deadline. At the conference the chief reporter joins the editor, news editor, web editor, picture editor and other senior staff to discuss the stories and decide which ones to pursue and how to go about it.

Research Now it’s time for the reporter to research the story or stories assigned to them. That may involve calling contacts, interviewing people in person or on the phone, checking previous stories for background information, researching facts and figures online, attending a press conference, interviewing the ‘man on the street’ for popular opinion and more.

Tappety tap tap Once the reporter has enough information and has checked the facts, it’s time to write the story (although generally not on a typewriter these days).

And all of this is done against the clock. Newspapers have strict deadlines for stories because a lot happens to them after they’ve been written (as we’ll see shortly) and if they are late getting to the printers then they’ll be late getting out to shops and homes - which could mean fewer sales and less revenue for the newspaper.

Thanks Here you go When a reporter’s happy with his or her story it will be ‘filed’. The story goes to the Chief Reporter who checks everything that needs to be in the story is in there - is it fair, accurate, balanced, the main points covered and properly explained? If there are any gaps, the reporter will be asked to do some more work on the story and file it again. Chief Reporter Reporter

Web Editor News Editor Once the Chief Reporter’s happy with the story it gets sent into a general news ‘queue’ or basket. There, it will be seen by the news editor and web editor.

Web Editor assesses the story, decides whether and where to use it online, re-purposes for the web and publishes. Also monitors the wires. The web editor will assess the story to decide whether it should be published on the website, and where. The story will be modified to optimise it for web publishing - perhaps a different headline, the addition of keywords to help make the story easier to find online, a simpler intro, an image of the right size for the website template and so on. Then the story will be published directly on the website. The web editor also monitors the ‘wires’ - a steady stream of national and international news stories provided by news agencies. Web Editor

The ‘Wires’ The News Editor assesses the story to decide whether and where to use it in the newspaper. They may re-angle a particular story, tighten up the opening paragraph, send it for a rewrite if they think it needs more work or if something new has happened since the story was written. The News Editor also monitors the wires for stories. Once the News Editor is happy with a story, they will mark it up with information on what page it should go on and where, and send it on to the production team. The News Editor assesses the story and decides whether and where to use it, re-angles or sends for rewrite if needed. Also monitors the wires for stories. News Editor

The production team is headed by a chief sub-editor who works with designers, picture editors, layout sub-editors (sometimes known as paginators) and text sub-editors (sometimes called ‘downtable subs’). They oversee getting the pages drawn up, choice of pictures and allocating stories to slots on the page. In some smaller newsrooms there is no chief sub, and in others the work done by sub-editors is now outsourced to a separate organisation. The Chief Sub-Editor oversees page layout, checks story for obvious errors, assigns it to a Sub-Editor. Chief Sub-Editor

The process of laying out pages used to be done by hand as you can see in these images. It’s now done on computers, although some people still sketch them by hand in the beginning to get an idea of how they might look. Either way, the principles are the same. Space is allocated on each page for stories, pictures, ads, headlines. The pages are drawn up by designers or layout subs, often under direction from the chief sub. Once the pages are drawn and the stories are on the page, the chief sub will assign to a sub-editor.

The Sub-Editor cuts story to size, checks for accuracy and typos, writes headlines and captions. Here’s the headline At this point the story is on a page and has a shape - the sub-editor knows how long it’s going to be, how big the headline is, what picture’s going with it. The sub-editor’s job is to check the story for factual errors and typos, make the story fit the space allocated to it and write the headline and caption and any other elements on the page, such as selecting quotes to highlight. The chief sub may also have given the sub-editor some direction on what kind of headline to write and things to watch out for in the text. Sub-Editor

When a sub-editor picks up a story, it looks a bit like this. They must write the headlines, caption, credits and pull quotes and make the story fit.

Here’s the headline Now a better headline The Check Sub-Editor checks the story and improves headlines and captions if necessary. Now the story goes to a check sub-editor, or revise sub, who is normally a senior and experienced sub-editor. They bring a fresh pair of eyes to the story, double-check accuracy and typos and improve headlines when needed. The chief sub will generally have another look at the story after this to make sure the final product is right. Check Sub-Editor

Pages are proofread Once all the stories on a page have been subbed and checked, the pages are printed out and proofread. This is where final typos are caught along with layout issues - such as rules in the wrong place, captions out of alignment or missing images.

Pages turned into pdfs and sent to the printer When the pages have been signed off they are saved as pdfs and sent to the printer.

Newspaper is printed... There the paper is printed and bundled...

...and distributed ...before being stacked in trucks for distribution - by rail, air or road - to depots, shops and homes.

Printing When you put it all together, the newsroom looks something like this. Chief Reporter This is a news story Chief Sub-Editor This is a news story Sub-Editor This is a news story Check Sub-Editor This is a news story Thi is a news story Proofreading News Editor This is a news story Reporter This is a news story Editor This is a news story Web Editor This is a news story

Sometimes newspapers are referred to as ‘the daily miracle’ because of the number of steps and pairs of hands involved in every issue.

The End Brought to you by Julie Starr of

The End

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