This summer I spent my time working for a newspaper company. We published three papers every week that covered the news for three different towns. You have likely heard time and again that newspapers are a dying breed, but that is far from the truth. The thing is, many papers like ours are doing well. A newspaper most effectively serves its purpose on a local level rather than a state or national level. Those large national or state newspapers cannot do what the local papers can. Readers want to see their kids’ football team on the cover of the sports section and see what their city council is doing to help them.
My experience with working for the papers taught me a lot. Here's what I learned:
1. The names of the city administrators
It is easy to forget that someone is making the town function. The people responsible for the town's administration are often important people in the local news. Whether the town is mad or singing their praises, or you need to know recent news with local businesses or city ordinances, the town administrators are major players.
2. Ads are super important.
Many of us may skip over the ads when reading the newspaper. I know that is what I used to do. But they are extremely important to a newspaper. Ads are a major source of revenue for the paper and, believe it or not, the structure of each week’s paper is very dependent on the type, size and shape of your ads.
3. Ads can be a major headache.
Not all ads come from an advertiser pre-made. Even the ads that do come pre-made sometimes have to be edited, formatted and touched up before they can be used in the paper. The papers actually build some of the ads they run themselves.
4. Newspapers require graphic design skills.
Every week the articles, pictures and ads have to be put together to become the paper. This is all done on the computer. Our office created a physical paper layout which we hung on the walls as a guide with basic information about ad placement, but then it was up to our productions guy to bring it all together. He is also the same person who builds ads when needed.
5. If you touch a lot of newspapers, get ready to be covered in ink.
Newsprint ink gets everywhere. When placing grocery store inserts or labeling papers for mail, your hands turn black. The ink is also grimy and can be hard to wash off. Due to this, you also learn not to wear white when you know you will be handling the papers.
6. Post office regulations and requirements are complicated.
One of the most complicated things is sending out the papers through the mail. They have to be labeled, bundled with rubber bands and placed in a bucket in a very specific way. It is an easy process to mess up and mess-ups do happen. It then takes even longer to go back through and correct those mistakes in order to make sure people get their papers.
7. Some businesses are camera shy.
If you walk into a business, especially large corporations, and you have a professional camera and are taking pictures of anything, you might get kicked out. Many do not like you taking pictures or talking to associates or customers, even if it has nothing to do with the business itself.
8. Stories can come from unexpected places.
Oftentimes some of the best or most fascinating stories are not the ones you are chasing, but the ones you stumble upon. You can be canvasing a local hangout to get opinions on traffic enforcement and find a guy from out of town who has no clue about the traffic, but has a really cool traveling shoe.