My first real job was at the Evening Post in Swansea. I prepared newspapers for production in a variety of ways… I will try to convey my experiences in this post.
My job title was ‘Page Production Operative’ – which has a very broad definition. In practice, I basically got what was seen on screen to press. I was one part of the Page Production Team – pictured winning Team of the Month!
Contract newspapers or outsourced newspapers – for instance a student publication – were compiled using Quark XPress. We would place text, adverts & images according to the supplied plan onto a page.
Each page was then converted into a PDF – in the correct dimensions depending on the newspaper size (tabloid, broadsheet or magazine) – then the pages were paired up & printed onto CMYK negs, ready to be burned onto metal plates for the press.
Constructing Newspaper Pages
Below you can see one of our contract newspapers (The Welsh Farmer) being prepared using Quark XPress. Each element was placed onto the page as instructed by the Editor, then sent to our page pairer software as a PDF.
Some other publications were supplied as pre-paired PDFs – these jobs were easy! We simply printed the paired pages onto CMYK negs, ready for our plate makers, who were very keen to make their plates.
We used Adobe Acrobat to print these PDFs, each newspaper had a specific print setting – depending upon the page dimentions.
In-House Newspaper Production
Our In-House newspapers – (the Evening Post, the Llanelli Star, the Carmarthen Journal.. to name a few) – were produced using TERA Digital Publishing software (named Fred), then compiled using PDF pairing software, which simply paired up the pages (say the front & back pages) to be printed onto CMYK negatives.
Above you will see a typical page from the Evening Post – I also had to proof read each page, looking for spelling mistakes & making sure that all adverts were present.
When each separate page was complete, the PDF was sent to the pairing software (above) which combined the paired pages, added colour bars & sent the PDF pairs to the AGFA image setters. I had to make sure every page arrived safely – if a page flushed on the RIP (was rejected for some reason) I had to pinpoint the offending element & fix the problem. More often than not it was a dodgy font within an advert – I would pinpoint the advert by an elimination process, then re-distill the offending advert.
I spent many a night fixing these types of problems – because newspapers, in their very nature, are often printed late at night when certain sports results are finalised.
Outsourcing the printing
After three years working as a Page Production Operative, unfortunately the Press was made redundant – meaning our newspapers were to be printed in Staverton, England – which was a necessary step due to the expense of running a newspaper press.
Around 50 guys were made redundant, which was a damn shame because they were all good workers & good guys. Our in-house newspapers were still created as usual, but we lost all of the contract newspapers as we had no means to print them.
The Planning Department
Luckily, I was kept on & moved to the planning department. This obviously entailed planning each of our in-house newspapers, which involved calculating the advertising space needed in each publication (which deduced the size of each publication), then spreading the adverts strategically throughout the newspaper & presenting a plan to our Editorial team.
Above you will see a plan of a regular publication – produced using Media Planner. I had to decide the number of pages for each newspaper (taking into consideration the press capabilities) & place the adverts into acceptable positions – to the customer, the press & the Editor.
Once a plan had been finalised (we prepared about 3 plans per day) – the plan was put into motion. I would send the laydown to the press & the Editorial team would do their stuff… write a load of news. Then bingo, you have a newspaper.
Another aspect of the job was to prepare the classified adverts (above) – we had to place all of the booked adverts within a space of two or three pages, filling the gaps with generic adverts. Rather like a jigsaw puzzle. These pages were often the culprits for PDF failures on our RIP software – as they contained a lot of text etc.
This job gave me a whole range of experiences – with a lot of responsibilities & technical duties. It was a fantastic job, where I met loads of great people & had a good laugh while working. Unfortunately, the wages were very low – just over the minimum wage – so naturally I had to move on if I wanted to make a comfortable living. But I learned a hell of a lot about the printing process & commercial publishing.