How To Produce A High School Newspaper

Essay, Research Paper

I sat nervously in front of the classroom while my hands shook uncontrollably. I sat and

watched each member of my staff walk into the classroom one by one. Lumps formed in my

throat as I tried to swallow them into my churning stomach. These were the chosen students

who were going to depend on me, their editor-in-chief, for guidance and assistance. All of a

sudden, a piercing ringing of the bell indicated that it was time for me to begin. I was the person

in charge of nineteen fellow peers. I wasn?t sure what to expect while hundreds of questions

raced through my mind: What if they don?t listen to me? What if I?m not experienced enough?

Can I just forget about this and go home? The first day of class was the most nerve wracking

and scariest day I have ever had to experience during the course of my short-lived newspaper

career. Coordinating a high school newspaper staff and creating a newspaper every three weeks

is a lot of fun, but on the other hand, it involves a lot frustration. Much goes into producing a

high school newspaper, but most important is the ability to manage and organize a group of

people within an allotted amount of time. Patience is also crucial in order to understand and

help other staff members. However, when it?s completed, the satisfaction is its own reward.

Before understanding the entire newspaper production process, there are a few key

people whose duties rely heavily on it. The editor-in-chief is the actual ?big cheese? or ?head

honcho.? As the editor-in-chief, it was my job to organize and lead the class during every issue

to produce a newspaper. This stressful position required good leadership skills, people skills,

and production skills since the other staff members depended on me, the editor-in-chief, to

direct them. The advisor is usually a teacher who doesn?t actual run the class, but advises the

editor-in-chief when needed. Section editors have the duty of laying out each page in their

section. Some section editors have assistants to help them, but most don?t because they usually

only have two to three pages.

Reporters are the glue in this process. Everything relies on their story and the deadlines they

meet. Their main duty is to meet the deadlines. If a reporter misses a deadline, or they are late,

then the entire production process gets held back. For instance, if a story is not ready, the

section editor can?t layout the page without a story; the photographers can?t size the pictures

onto a page without a story on it; the advisor can?t final that page until its completed with a

picture and story on it; and finally, the editor-in-chief can?t take the paper to press without the

pages finaled. So, everything that happens revolves around the reporter and his/her story. The

second duty of a reporter is to write a story interesting enough so that the readers will read it.

There is no point in writing a story just to take up space. If that were the case, then the efforts

(of the entire class) would be meaningless. Photographers also have many duties. They are

responsible for taking and printing all the pictures that will be placed in the newspaper. The

pictures must be visible and exciting to attract the reader?s attention to the story. Sometimes,

they have to take twenty or thirty pictures of one athletic event to get that one good action shot.

In order to follow the procedures of newspaper production, there are a few terms and

newspaper lingo to understand. Dummy sheets are the sheets of paper where section editors

design the pre-layout of their pages. Each section editor is responsible for about two to three

pages. To crop a picture means to cut a picture or clip art in the appropriate proportions to the

picture box where it is to be placed. Copy is the actual text. All the cartoon-like pictures or

hand-drawn pictures are the clip art designs. Gutters are the columns between the text that must

remain empty. When a story or layout is finaled, the reporter has been through the process of

getting it approved by the editor-in-chief, advisor, and section editor. Finally, when we take the

paper to press, we are taking the paper to the printer and they are distributed on a Friday.

The day after each issue is distributed, the editor-in-chief and the advisor meet. During

their meeting, they discuss the last issue and the problems that arose. Then, they organize the

calendar for the next issue. Organization and timing are the keys to producing a newspaper in a

short amount of time. The newspaper production class was only one class period, so the

majority of the work had to be done during the staff?s free time..

After the editor-in-chief and advisor meet, the entire staff gather around in a circle to

discuss their feelings of the previous issue and what they heard the student body comment on.

Next, the entire class brainstorms for current news story ideas for the next issue. Then, each

staff member gives a detailed report of their beats to give more news story ideas. Beats are the

assigned clubs or organizations around the school that each staff member must keep in contact

with. They must record current events or special projects that the club will or have participated

in or are coordinating. For instance, one staff member may be assigned to keep current on the

activities of the Drama Club. Every week, it is the reporter?s responsibility to investigate

whether or not anything new is happening, so when the editor-in-chief asks for a beat report, the

reporter must be prepared to give one. Finally, all the stories are assigned. This entire step

usually takes one day.

The next step is the first deadline. First deadline is three days after the stories are

assigned and all first drafts of the stories must be turned in to the editor-in-chief. While they are

finishing their stories to meet first deadline, the sections editors must also finish the dummy

sheets of their section. On the day of first deadline, the editor-in-chief, section editors, and

photographers meet to construct a photo list. Each section editor gives the photographer their

request for pictures of the stories in their section and what types of pictures they are going to


Two days after first deadline, second deadline is scheduled. This is when all stories are

supposed to be turned in to the section editors with all the mistakes corrected from the first

deadline editing. Also, the photographers must have three-fourths of the pictures done by this

time so the section editors can begin to layout the pages. At this time, the photos must be

printed and available so the section editors can place picture boxes, captions, and headlines.

Final deadline is next, usually one day after second deadline. Reporters only get one day

after second deadline because their stories are expected to be done by this time with only minor

grammatical mistakes for the advisor to catch. Now, the advisor meets with each individual

reporter to final their story. In order for a story to be finaled, it should have been approved by

the editor-in-chief and section editors before it reaches the advisor?s desk. Then, the advisor

must approve it to meet the printing standards set by the him/her. After the story is finaled, it is

ready to be placed onto the pages by section editors.

Next, the late-night layout sessions come into place. The first layout deadline is three

days after final deadline for the stories. During this deadline, all stories must be placed on the

page, pictures must be printed so that they are ready to be cropped, and headlines must be

placed. Headlines are usually the most difficult and crucial task of layout because those first,

big, couple of words above the story are what will attract readers to read the corresponding

article. This deadline is when the majority of work must be done before final layout deadline.

Final layout deadline is the second to the last step of producing a newspaper. All pages

must be done within the three days given after first layout deadline. More time is given to

section editors this deadline because they need the time to make corrections or reorganize their

entire page. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances cause a reorganization of a section. Maybe

pictures didn?t come through, or a reporter who missed a deadline had a story that was too short,

or ads need to be placed. Ads from local businesses are the foundation of the entire newspaper

production process. The money received from the businesses help pay for the printing costs.

Without ads, there would be no newspaper. Sometimes, there is an abundance of ads and not

enough space, so instead of cutting out money, we must cut out a story.

Finally, after the paper is free of mistakes and all the pictures are cropped, the

editor-in-chief is ready to take the paper to press. This is the most exciting part of the entire

process because this is when everything comes together. After three weeks of planning and hard

work, everything we?ve worked for is done. Feelings of excitement and exasperation overcome

the feelings of anger and annoyance that have surfaced during the three weeks of working side

by side with the other staff members.

The printers usually take two days to print the issues and we get them back on a Friday,

during second period. During third period, the newspapers are distributed throughout the school.

Some newspapers are thrown in the garbage cans by disinterested students and some are actually

read by others. The point of satisfaction is when teachers and fellow student compliment or

commend the newspaper. Criticisms are also welcomed in order for us to improve the next

issue. No matter how many times we?ve seen the pages during the layout session, when we open

the newspapers on Friday, it was like looking at it for the first time. However, the elation is

short-lived. The process begins again on Monday.


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