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Copy editors, distribution crew among our 'hidden' assets

August 15, 2004|by JOHN LEAGUE

A communications company can be a very public venue in which to work, both externally and internally.

Readers of the paper easily can recognize the person who is responsible for its content. At the top of this column each week is the photo of an employee, whose picture will be seen by about 90,000 people. Whether you like the column or not, you know who wrote it and where to find them. On many news stories, reporters are identified by byline and e-mail addresses. Photographers are noted under every picture.

Within the confines of the newspaper building, the same also is true. Our employees know which departments are responsible for our color reproduction when it is good, and not so good. We know who sells the ads and who creates them. We know who delivers your paper on time and who doesn't. Many of you reward your carriers periodically with tips.


Yet there are a few departments that do more than their share of heavy lifting at The Herald-Mail Co., but rarely are recognized even by fellow employees. Without them, you would not be reading this paper this morning.

Today, I'll touch on two departments. Each is very different. Both toil behind the scenes. Both are indispensable to any newspaper.

In the newsroom, copy editors quietly work outside the limelight.

As the name implies, copy editors edit copy, or stories. They check for grammar, style and spelling errors after another editor has read the story for fairness and clarity. They are the guardians of the paper's reputation for accuracy and precision. They also design the pages, write headlines and captions, and place the stories on the page.

Terry Headlee, our executive editor, each day sends around to the entire newsroom a list of many of the errors that have been caught the previous day and night by the copy desk.

This practice has proved to be a good continuing education tool for our newsroom, but it also has heightened our appreciation for the work our copy editors do each day and night.

Once the paper has been printed, it is carried by conveyor to Packaging and Distribution.

The people in Packaging and Distribution operate machinery that inserts advertising circulars into the paper each day. On Sundays, they also place one section of the paper into another.

They then organize the papers in bundles of 15 or 20 papers each, and distribute them on our loading dock on a route-by-route basis to be delivered to your home or retail outlets.

The toughest night is Saturday night. That's when the paper is the biggest, and the press run the longest. The heaviest workload is the six to eight weeks before Christmas, when the papers are the largest. All of this is done on a tight deadline.

The paper has been late because of mechanical problems in the mailroom. But I can't think of one instance where a human error in this department has resulted in a missed deadline.

The Herald-Mail is fortunate. We have a dedicated, hard-working, talented crew of often unnoticed employees. We could not distribute the paper without them.

Thank you for the good work done each publication day.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at

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