Roundabout: Around and Around I Go
Many readers have expressed an interest in how the News Guide comes together each week. Some of the questions I’ve been asked are: Where do you get the stories? How do you keep track of all that information? How much does it cost? What is the deadline? I just sent you a press release; why isn’t it in this week’s paper? Where is the office? Well, I’ll try to answer and hopefully amuse you, too!
Monday through Wednesday, I’m at my computer, processing the hundreds of press releases I get every day. Most come via email; in the last three days, I received over 2,311 emails, 1,568 of which were spam. I check my inbox throughout the day, weeding out as I go. Meanwhile, I’m determining when each story should publish and checking grammar, punctuation and facts. I edit stories so they’ll be consistent throughout the publication by adhering to our style guide.
The best press releases are the ones that offer the facts: who, what, when, where, without extra tab returns, all capital letters, double spacing, and so on. I encourage you to include background information, history and extra details, since they make the most interesting stories; I use as much information as I can, and edit for length when I have to.
News items also come by mail, fax and in person here at the office. And I keep an eye out for events that I haven’t received press releases on, so I can publish those, too. I always enjoy meeting the people behind the news. It’s easy to remember a story when I can put a face to it, but I fail at recalling what ran when. If someone asks about a particular item, I may remember it, but not whether it ran last week or last month.
Thursday and Friday are pagination days, when I take all the items I’ve processed and start putting them into the framework of the News Guide, which is defined by the advertising. It’s like doing a big puzzle, and it requires a lot of concentration. My coworkers know by now that when I get that zoned out look on my face, I must be paginating. Last Thursday I worked steadily to put this edition together for almost 11 hours. I was so absorbed that I forgot to go out and roll up my car windows when the storm blew in. Two hours later, a very nice young man came in to inform me that my windows were down. Alas, too late. My car seats were completely soaked and I had a very soggy ride home. Did I mention that I really like puzzles?
Once I’m done, sometime around midday on Friday, I start on the next batch of emails. The News Guide goes to the production department to be proofread; the ads are downloaded, final adjustments are made, and then it’s off to the printer over the weekend. Our office usually has copies of the News Guide, hot off the press, on Monday mornings if you don’t want to wait until for distribution. Which, by the way, leads me to answer the last question. The News Guide Manchester office is located between Rachel’s and Sleepy’s, across from Sam’s Wood-fired Pizza. If you’re heading south on Main Street, that’s on the right side, just beyond the roundabout that leads to Shaw’s. We’re kind of tucked in the back, and the sign is not large. Feel free to stop by sometime and say hello!
My deadline for receiving editorial content is noon on Tuesday, for the next week’s paper. I’m always at least a week ahead. I’m writing this the second week of September, and I’m already getting Thanksgiving notices. It makes remembering the date a bit of a challenge sometimes, but at least I’m in sync with the retail world; I can walk into any store and not be fazed by the holiday decorations. Anyway, if you send me a press release on Monday, and notice that it didn’t make the paper that same week, that’s why.
There is no cost associated with running a letter or news item; the rule of thumb is, as long as the story is not for your personal gain, it’s a news item. If you want creative control over it, if you’ll profit from it, if it is of a personal nature, that’s paid advertising; we have a great creative department that can put together a nice looking ad under your direction. Sometimes the distinction between the two can be confusing. We’ll help you figure it out.