Where the News Comes From

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Where the News Comes From City Desk What Reporters Do Photographers Picture Editor Site Newspaper Graphic Artists What Are Copy Editors How Newspaper's Are Printed Honor Boxes The Pape Boy: Newspaper Home Deliver The News Stand


The New York Times boasts that it contains ‘all the news that’s fit to print’. In every community all across the United States journalists gather, evaluate, and distribute information that we have come to call The News. How the task is performed is so complex and time sensitive, newspapers came to be called The Daily Miracle during the hey day of American journalism. The average newspaper in the U.S. publishes the word content equivalent of Tolstoy's War and Peace every day. The process by which that information reaches the printed page on your doorstep or even on your computer screen is one that few people outside the industry understand. Never the less, it is a process that affects all of us, and will continue to do so forever. As journalism enters a new age, the age of the internet, understanding the process by which ‘the news’ is collected, evaluated, and distributed might help people understand why so many journalists are concerned about declining ethics, publication of false or fabricated news items, reduced standards for stories published online, and a general devaluation of journalism as a profession.

The Reporters

Reporters get their stories from three basic places. They get assignments from their department editor, usually a city editor for news reporters. They research and examine trends in subject areas related to their coverage specialty, and they get story ideas from sources or contacts in their area of expertise, or ‘beat’. In deciding what stories to write, reporters take into account timeliness, truth, relevance, and news value. They discuss these factors and the story idea with their supervising editor and a decision is made as to which story or stories they’ll work on that day. Reporters call sources, research online and in the newspaper’s own proprietary library, and visit with people who have information relevant to their story. Then they write.

Deadlines.... Deadlines...

At five o’clock or so, they submit a first writethru(writethru is a journalism term that means the first filing on a topic. Newspapers publishing multiple editions will have reporters file as many as twenty writethrus so they can get the most recent information into the various editions); usually the ‘lede’ (first sentence) and a few other key ideas to the editor for the meeting editors use to budget space in the next day’s paper. Stories are sometimes ‘killed’ (a decision is made not to pursue or publish the story) at this point, or ‘held’ (used in the future as opposed to the very next day). If the story is a go, the reporter finishes writing, fact checks the piece, ‘CQs’ (check quote, which means look up spellings of names using a source other than their own notes if possible. If it is not possible to second source spellings reporters do a visual, word by word check between their hard copy notes and what they've written) names and quoted material.

The Editors

When the story is finished, it goes to the city desk where an editor reads it for content, checks facts, and returns it with questions. The reporter refiles the story, and it is reread. If the story meets standards, it is passed on to the copy desk, where another editor reads the story for punctuation, grammar, spelling, and edits for length. The story is then ‘laid out’ or placed in the spot it will occupy on the printed page the next day.

The Press Room

When the eight page section of pages that makes up the printed page is complete, the metal plate is produced and laced on the press. When all the plates are finished, newsprint if fed into the presses to create the ‘web’. The web is the continuous sheet of fast moving paper running between the presses that make up the entire line of printing presses. (The Stamford Advocate uses a line of eight presses to print the paper. Other papers use more or less, depending on the size of the paper and the kind of presses used.) This web is the most dangerous place in the building. The paper is moving so fast, the paper edge is like a razor that can amputate fingers or limbs easily, or worse, haul a careless press room worker into the presses themselves. Presses can also catch fire from the extreme amount of friction the high speeds of the press rollers create.


When the paper is finished printing, it is fed into folders and collators that add the advertising circulars and grocery store coupons we’re accustomed to seeing in our papers, along with any special publications like Parade Magazine. The collators feed onto conveyor belts that send the folded, bundled papers to the trucks for delivery to stores, honor boxes, and your front door.

Why it MattersValid XHTML 1.0 Transitional

As the internet is more and more where people choose to go for news, journalists and news companies struggle to keep the important parts of the process; the collection, evaluation, and editing of the information; while finding ways to eliminate the relatively slow, costly manufacturing portion of the process, and get the news on the internet in a responsible, timely manner.