Making the paper

Up until now, newspaper ownership had included a lot of things — writing and editing, subscriber support, ad sales, cleaning the bathroom, mounting a payment deposit box outside the front door, covering events, taking photos, running payroll, building software tools, delivering papers, fixing printers, etc. — but I hadn’t yet had a chance to do any significant work paginating and laying out the print newspaper itself.

This week I dove in to that world, at least temporarily, taking on a majority of the layout work for a few issues so I can learn the ropes and give our usual layout editor a break.

It’s been hard. And slow. And stressful. And a little fun.

Going from this:

to 28 pages of this:

felt like quite the slog. (And that’s with some of the layout having been set up in advance and someone else helping with a few pages.)

My family let me lock myself in my office for the whole weekend, and it took me that long. There were times where I paused to stretch or eat or edit new stories coming in or research some possible efficiencies and shortcuts in InDesign, but mostly it was just slinging text boxes, spacers, photos and headlines, hour after hour.

I’m proud of the result. There are certainly mistakes and imperfections, but only a few where I had to consciously pry my hand off the mouse and just let them go in the name of expediency. The rest are for readers to discover, and I’m sure they will.

I didn’t allow myself to stop and make comparisons to online publishing, or I might have lost steam. I love the experience of reading the printed paper, but I appreciate now more than ever what a huge undertaking and time commitment it is to get that thing out the door every week, especially given the relative ease of digital publishing, which we also do.

And of course I appreciate more than ever my colleagues who make the print layout process look easy, or at least seem to do it with a lot less sweating and stressing. I had already guessed that printed page layout isn’t a role I’m looking to take on very often, and now I know for sure.

Chris Hardie is a journalist, newspaper publisher, software developer and entrepreneur based in Indiana, USA. Read more from Chris on this site, learn more on his personal website, subscribe for updates or follow Chris on Mastodon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *