How we did it: A typical week’s work during the Westside Pioneer’s print saga (concluded)
By Kenyon Jordan
Describing a typical production week for the Westside Pioneer's news side as a print publication, part one of this chronology ran last issue, covering Friday through Monday. Part two (below) completes the saga through Thursday.
“Desperation and panic.” That's what I usually tell people who ask me how my day's going on a Tuesday or Wednesday. They probably think I'm joking.
Ideally, most of the day is spent writing. But “ideally” rarely happens. Tuesday at noon is a weekly milestone. If I don't have a pretty good idea by then what's needed (in terms of stories and photos) to fill the paper, then I'm in big trouble. That's actually happened, though thankfully not often. A memorable time was early July 2009, when my story list was so short I was ready to start knocking on doors and asking people if they had anything interesting to talk about. Driving around, I saw a high-wheeler outside an industrial shop south of Highway 24 and learned to my immense relief that Paul Rust's Rocky Mountain High Wheels was releasing a new model. Page 1 saved!
Write, write, write. But there's a plan! On stories that seem at all complicated I take “dives” into them (meaning I start writing them to see if there's some key angles or facts I'd missed). A lot of times one or both are true, so I send an e-mail or leave a phone message with my contact (or contacts) spelling out my questions, then write down who I need to hear back from before my deadline.
When is deadline? Well, for most people it's Wednesday at close of business (about 5 p.m.). For me, it's a little later.
Wednesday, until about 9 p.m.
This is like the final turn before the home stretch. Left to do, starting Wednesday morning at about 7 a.m., are usually three to five stories - typically the longest and hardest ones that I've been putting off and/or researching. But I don't want to hurry myself and get key facts wrong. It's so blasted true that if there are 1,000 facts in an issue and 999 of them are right, it's that 1,000th one that will make you lose sleep.
Wednesday, 9 p.m. to whenever
Transition from writing to layout. If I've spent my time well, this should happen by about 9 p.m. It doesn't always work out so neatly. Sometimes there are meetings on Wednesday nights that can play havoc, such as the District 11 school board meetings in February 2009 that ran late into the night. I couldn't put off watching them because Westside schools were closing as a result. So I'd tape them on my VCR, playing them back in the wee hours of the morning and fast-forwarding to find the “good stuff.”
Note that by this point Therese has built the Classified and Got a Card pages and placed the display ads on other pages. One advantage she doesn't have with ads is being able to arbitrarily cut or edit to ease layout. That's one thing I've got going for me.
A reality of layout is that it takes time. Do you like how nicely spaced the articles are, how neatly cropped the photos? That the text reads clean and clear? That's no accident. It's the result of extra time huddled over pages. Part of me would rather collapse on the couch, but if the product doesn't look good on the news stand, then that extra half-hour or hour of sleep was hardly worth it, right?
Not a lot of coffee, just a half cup at midnight to perk up the old brain cells. I think adrenaline takes care of the rest of it.
Therese stays up pretty late, proofreading pages, but usually hits the sack no later than 3.
Meanwhile, Travers, a natural night owl, is proofreading in his house next door. He'll stay with me until 5 or 6 a.m., if need be, then sack out until we head for the printer around 11.
Thursday, around 5 a.m.
If all has gone reasonably well, I can catch an hour's sleep on the couch, maybe even an hour and a half, waking myself with a kitchen timer. But there are also times when, because of various reasons - stories that need extra work, uncertainty of placement, weariness or everyday numbskullosity - I have to work straight through. I know I'll pay for it later. Oh well.
Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
At 7, wake up Therese, make a pot of coffee and give her the page drafts, which I should have completed... but there've been times... By now I also should have incorporated Therese's initial proofing, Travers' read and my own edits. Nevertheless, as sure as snow has flakes, Therese will find additional typos when she reads through a second and even a third time. Naturally, I complain, which, when you think about it, makes no sense at all.
Finally (or in the midst of fixing typos) there's the small matter called the Editor's Desk column - an hour to an hour and a half's of concentrated thought to fill a preconfigured space. Sometime I don't have anywhere near that long. But I still try to make it worth people's time to read.
By 10 a.m. or thereabouts, I've run the procedure to turn all the Quark pages into Acrobat PDFs.
Last check: Therese and I survey the PDF pages for jumps, color issues or obvious oversights. Then I log into the website for our printer, Signature Offset, and send off the PDF page files.
After a cheer of delight (and relief), eat breakfast, shower and head to the printer, located north of Garden of the Gods Road. I drive our sedan, Therese our van and Travers his SUV.
Thursday, 10:45 to noon:
Meet with the printers and do what's called a “press check,” to see if the initial run looks right. Usually it's real close, but Pat Henson, the lead pressman and a real pro, works with us on any concerns about color or ink consistency.
Standing about 50 feet from the presses, the three of us label papers for our subscribers. This takes about 45 minutes.
Thursday, Noon to 3 p.m.
Load up our vehicles with bundles from the press run of 5,000 or so. Travers has at least 60 percent of the stops, so he gets the most bundles. Therese and I split the remaining 40 percent, but first she has to drive to the post office on Fountain Boulevard to get our subscriptions mailed off as third-class bulk mail.
Fatigue is not to be ignored as I move through my 20 stops. I will not miss that feeling, but I will miss the people I see on my stops. As brief as our conversations usually are, they've been going on for many years in most cases, and now I have guilt going for me because several of them have told me that without my weekly arrivals they will no longer know if it's Thursday!
Thursday, 3-5 p.m.
Sleep. Never a problem.
Thursday, 5 to about 10 p.m.
Hang out, stumble around, catch up on general news, watch a game or show on TV (or on some Thursdays, go to a public meeting and work to stay focused), check e-mail and phone calls.
Start thinking about the coming week and doing it all again.
Westside Pioneer article