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Delivering the news takes big effort from many

Jan. 15, 2009 @ 02:21 PM

HUNTINGTON — Thousands of words are in every edition of The Herald-Dispatch.

Each word, whether it be in a headline, under a photo or in a news story, is placed there with a purpose. Certain words are meant to grab a reader’s attention while others are meant to express the emotions of someone being interviewed.

Each and every word is painstakingly placed in its position by a member of the newspaper staff. Though reporters write the words and have their names atop the articles, a total effort is required by the entire staff to put out the daily newspaper.

Reporters, photographers, editors, copy editors and graphic artists all work together in the newsroom each day to turn ideas and leads into stories and make sure readers are well-informed.

Story ideas can come from press releases, calls from readers, reporters and their sources and from editors who brainstorm in meetings. Editors decide if an idea seems newsworthy, and if it does, they assign the story idea to a reporter.

Herald-Dispatch reporter Bryan Chambers said before a word is written or an interview is taken, it is important for a reporter to develop the story idea. Collecting background information about the subject first helps a reporter know what questions to ask a source, Chambers said.

“While gathering information, the reporters work to ensure they get both sides of the story,” said Maureen Johnson, metro editor at The Herald-Dispatch. “Reporters strive to tell stories in the fairest light possible. News stories should be balanced to give the readers the most complete view of the issue.”

While employees in the newsroom are interviewing and writing stories, account executives in the retail advertising department are busy calling on customers, building campaigns and selling advertisements to local, regional and national businesses. Folks in the Classifieds department take calls to help people place liner ads for homes, vehicles, lost pets and employment opportunities. Advertising accounts for more than 65 percent of revenue at The Herald-Dispatch, providing the majority of the resources needed to report, design and publish the newspaper and other products, including the Putnam and Lawrence Heralds, Tri-State Family Magazine, Tri-State Visitors’ Guide, Herald-Dispatch.com and more. Graphic artists in the Creative Services department design the ads and prepare them for publication.

“The strength of the news product provides exceptional value to our advertisers,” said Amy Howat, director of advertising and marketing. “More than 80 percent of local adults read the newspaper each week, which means that our advertisers’ messages reach the largest local media audience in a way that is easy to find, keep and use.”

While the news and advertising departments are vital to each other, their functions remain separated to maintain independence and integrity in news reporting.

“I’ve heard the newspaper described as a piece of real estate,” Howat said. “Half is for sale, which is the advertising, and half is not, which is our news coverage. Neither could exist without the other, but they function separately.”

Back in the newsroom, photographers also are assigned to some stories. The photos they take will help tell the story visually. For more in-depth coverage of an event or particular issue, a videographer is assigned to make a video for the newspaper’s Web site.

After gathering information for the story, reporters typically come back to the newsroom to write the story. If they are working in the community and are unable to come back to the newsroom to write the story, reporters electronically send their stories to the newsroom.

Then the editors take over.

“Editors read stories to determine if the story answers the questions that readers will have,” Johnson said. “We also edit for grammatical errors and consistency.”

If a story is not complete or has other problems, it goes back to the reporter for more work or further newsgathering.

All stories are placed on a budget, a list that shows which stories should be in the paper on which day.

Each day, there are several meetings to help determine the placement of all stories in the newspaper. City desk, copy desk, sports and feature editors meet with the executive editor and managing editor to talk about which stories belong on the front page and which should go inside.

After the meeting, stories that don’t need any further reporting are sent by city editors to the copy desk.

Copy desk editors read the story again, then decide with the help of city editors where in the newspaper the story and photos are going to go. The copy editors place the story on the page and write a headline to go with the story.

After stories and photos have been placed on the page and headlines have been written, the page is sent to the pre-press department. In pre-press, the page is printed onto a large film negative, which then goes through another machine where a plate for the press is made. The plates are metal with a rubber-like coating on them. As the plate goes through the machine, the coating raises up like a rubber stamp.

The plate is then put in the correct position on the press. The ink is applied to the raised image areas of the plate and then transferred to the newsprint.

The newspapers are then bundled and the circulation department delivers them to businesses, residences, dealers, vending machines and schools.

Each day the whole process is repeated again. Newsroom workers come up with ideas, develop them, gather news, write about it, edit it and design the pages you read each morning.

Over the years, journalism has been highly influenced by technology. In the pursuit to give readers the news faster, reporters, photographers and editors are no longer forced to wait until the next day’s newspaper to publish news.

The Herald-Dispatch regularly updates its Web site with briefs, news and sports articles, photo galleries and videos to provide better coverage for its readers. Before the newspaper is printed each day, the copy desk is in charge of updating the Web site with the next day’s news.

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