The media seems to be a mystery to many people and newspapers may seem especially mysterious, since no one ever "sees" the reporters, unlike television journalists. The newspapers appear in yards and in racks, with few pictures of the people who put it together. So how do newspapers work? This article will discuss how most small to medium size daily newspapers work, which constitutes most of the newspapers in the United States.
Newspapers usually have an administration department, which covers top management, payroll, accounting and human resources; a news department, where the reporters and photographers work; a production department, which is where the paper is readied for press; an advertising department and circulation, which handles subscriptions and delivery.
The news really begins in the newsroom. Reporters cover certain "beats," or areas, such as city hall or the county courthouse. They gather and write stories about their beats. These stories are either their own ideas or assigned by their editors. Most news departments have a department head for each news "segment" -- metro, features, sports, and so on. The heads of these departments are the editors. They see the finished stories, make corrections or suggestions and ultimately send them on to the copy desk.
The copy desk re-reads the stories for grammar and spelling, puts them on the page, and sends the "dummies" or printouts to the managing editor. The articles are proofed again and then cleared to be sent to the typesetter or plate maker. The plate making processes are mostly handled by computer, but occasionally a special ad or other feature will be made up by hand on large sheets and processed manually.
When all the pages have been sent, and the aluminum plates burned and placed on the press, the pressroom foreman starts the printing press, and in about 60 seconds, the first papers come out. These are usually not good copies, since the press will have to be calibrated for color and register during the press run. Papers then go back to the editors and copy desk, who look them over again for errors, and the newspapers are bundled and sent to the carriers.
The old movie cliché "Stop the presses!" is hardly ever heard, incidentally. Presses are huge machines and stopping them in the middle of the run unless absolutely necessary costs time and money. If the remake can wait until roll change, which is when the huge rolls of paper are replaced on the press and the press will have to be stopped anyway, that's when the change will be made.
Although newspapers are dedicated to informing the public on vital issues and events of community interest, they are still businesses and want to turn a profit. For this reason, newspapers charge for advertising. It pays the bills. Individuals or businesses can pay to place advertisements, with the advantage that the newspaper will give them as much space as they are willing to pay for.
Journalists at newspapers usually have college degrees in journalism or a related field such as English or language arts. In many ways, being a reporter is like any other 9-to-5 job, except that reporters are paid to be nosy. Many people don't think of reporters as being creative people, since they have the most workaday of the writing professions, but they are often highly creative people who write because that is what they love to do.
Newspapers work in a symbiotic relationship with the communities they serve. Communities supply the stories and the newspapers make sure those stories are told. Most newspaper staffs feel they are entrusted with the responsibility of telling the truth and take that duty very seriously.