- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

Construction crew creates cohesion from many pieces

Think of the news desk as sort of the Grand Central Station of The Washington Times. This small production team, backed by the copy desk, assembles the newspaper from its component parts. It interacts with employees from nearly every division of the newspaper. Deadlines are fixed after negotiation with the circulation department. The advertising department determines how many pages we must produce based on the number of ads sold.
Each of the various newsroom departments national, foreign, business, metro, features and sometimes even sports presents a budget of stories for which the news desk must find room in the paper. Photography supplies the pictures that will compete for attention, and the graphics department designs explanatory charts and maps to add dimension to stories. Geoffrey Etnyre, an assistant managing editor, oversees it all coming together in a cohesive package.
So the news desk gets it from all sides. It must shape order from all these elements and package them for readers in an attractive format that makes sense all in about six hours. The task is routinely enormous on an average news day. When the world appears to be falling apart, as on the morning of September 11, it is particularly daunting.
In April 2001, the newsroom began using SaxoPress, a state-of-the-art publishing system running on Macintosh computers, in a dramatic leap ahead of the technology employed at The Times for more than a decade.
Once the new computer system was in place, the newsroom staff essentially became desktop publishers. For the most part, they no longer are assisted by workers in the composing and camera rooms. All the pieces are put together electronically.
Editors on the news desk design the pages on computers, assembling the electronic versions of edited stories, photos, graphics and other elements for each page. When a page is finished, a negative is printed right to the press room.
The new process saves much time and manpower. It also made it possible for the presses to start rolling to print a four-page extra shortly after noon on September 11. Without the new desktop capabilities, all the fast and furious work of our reporters, photographers and editors could not have been assembled so quickly for so big a news story.
One way or another, though, we always have gotten the paper on the presses and the news to our readers because that, after all, is what the men and women who work on newspapers live to do.
Brian Sink, news editor

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