19 March 2009

On building a page

No, the paper's not going under; but apparently Greeley's mayor does hope that it folds, just as the Rocky Mountain News crumpled a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't look like anything like that will happen to the Trib any time soon, so I guess Mayor Ed Clark will have to wait a while before it happens.

I wish I had been at the Trib for a longer period of time (maybe I should be careful what I say, hm?), so that I could offer a better perspective on all of this. Clark says that the Tribune is biased and hates him and is no good for the city as a whole. Well, ok. The newspaper, I am beginning to discover, does lean a little to the liberal side, at least in terms of what stance the editorial pages take. One of the copydesk people said today that if there's anything we've done wrong in relation to the Mayor and reporting on him, it's that we haven't reported on enough good things that he's made happen in City Council meetings.

Yet, I wonder, how many of those things are there? I have no idea. People have no idea exactly how much goes into making a newspaper. It's insane. Just building a page, for a complete beginner like me, takes about an hour. It's probably safe to say that when you know exactly what you're doing, it probably takes about half of an hour. But then, there are so many pages to put together, and that's only putting them together. That's not planning on the advance stories, the surprise briefs and wire stories from around the nation.

You know, there's a huge running list of mini articles compiled by The Associated Press and some other news organizations that details, minute-by-minute, what's happening around the world? And when we put pages together, we don't look at those lists first? First the ads go on the page--newspapers are, after all, built on advertising--and then we format the articles and all the things that might go with them. You may have heard about "new media" and "alternative story forms" if you have a journalistic background. "New media" really just means using the internet to its full potential (videos, photos, sound clips); "alternative story forms" means that editors are suddenly realizing that people are bored with normal inverted pyramid writing styles.

There are even studies proving that when the page is pretty, and uses pulled-out quotes and boxes with condensed information, the reader retains more information. What a surprise. But when you use all these separate boxes, they take up even more room. So it's only after all the fancy, "necessary" stuff is on the page that we look for what we call "filler."

"Filler" isn't bad, it isn't ostracized. It is, on the other hand, filler. If we happen to have a little space left on the page, there's a sort of backlog of information that we go to in order to fill the spot. Since Greeley is such a locally-focused paper, the short articles (briefs) used for filler are usually national and international issues.

This list of filler.....is huge. The amount of information out there is amazing. It astounds me. And even the bigger newspapers don't use half of it. Why not? Space? I actually don't know. The internet can hold just about anything. Maybe that's the problem.

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