Excerpt On Newspaper Journalism From Novel, LIVING IN A SHADOW

I have included an excerpt from my full-length novel, LIVING IN A SHADOW (www.amazon.com/dp/B00AP68CUO), demonstrating how the newspaper industry has changed with the advent of the computer publishing.

The news was in full swing this Monday morning. Marcy leaned back against the partition to the little kitchenette and watched the activity as she sipped her coffee. A beehive, she concluded.

“Mornin’, Ms. Jennings,” a masculine voice mumbled politely, hurrying past her.

Marcy was startled by the voice only for an instant.

“Oh hi, Ed,” Marcy nodded, clutching her Styrofoam coffee cup.

Ed was head of the layout department. He had a fist full of long thin strips of copy, newspaper columns starting to emerge.

Marcy knew regular features were inserted first, then new copy arranged around them. As the day progressed, stories were cut and bumped with the layout constantly changing and evolving. Years ago, the copy had all been stripped in by hand. Each change had meant tedious manual cut-and-paste. The originals were then shot on a camera to a reversed negative and stripped into “goldenrods.” The clear cut-lines in the “neg” were inked to black so they wouldn’t show when the final plate was generated. The printed copy came from the inked plate.

In this day and age, the layout was manipulated by a computer—no cut-lines, very little “make-ready” before the reversal and plate process. Marcy was glad she’d been in the business long enough to remember the old way. If you really wanted to know the printing business, talk to the crusty old layout designers who’d seen it all, including cold lead type arranged in trays by hand, backwards! A lost art in this modern world, it still gave a writer an appreciation for “what happens to my words.” Even with all the technological advances, they still don’t miraculously appear on a page without a lot of hard work and accuracy.

“Ed”—the layout department had a name and a face. A person you could talk to and, hopefully, reason with. Andy, as newspaper editor, had the final word, of course, but he listened to all of his professionals. As a freelance journalist, Marcy had never really known the people who’d made her words possible before. For the first time in her career, she felt like part of a team, the member of a family.


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