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We work nights to bring readers morning news

June 12, 2005|by JOEL HUFFER

When the night bus arrives at the stop, the night ones get off and turn down the street.

They walk until Clarence says good night and goes to clean important rooms.

Four move along until it is time for Honey to leave and begin rolling her night away.

Three continue until Porter says farewell and goes to greet travelers from near and far.

Two walk steadily along until Amelia catches another bus, which takes her to her office, the sky.

Only Cap is left and he runs to the docks, where a ship heads in, sailing west.




I listened as my wife read these words to our 5-year-old son from a book he brought home from school.

"The Night Ones," by Patricia Grossman, tells the story of how a bus carries five people to their nighttime jobs in the city.

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The characters in the story are a janitor, a baker, a doorman, an air traffic controller and a dock worker. But there are others - security guards, factory workers, nurses, convenience store clerks - who do their work while others are sleeping.

In the newspaper business, we're busy at night, too.

Reporters, photographers and editors work while you sleep, gathering and assembling the information you read the next day. Pressmen, mailroom workers and delivery drivers are printing, packaging and distributing the papers, making sure they reach you in time to be read with your morning coffee.

It's something most readers probably don't stop to think about.

I certainly didn't when I first applied for a job here in the sports department as a high school junior.

When the sports editor told me I was hired and could start the next day, I asked, "What time should I be here?"

I must have had that "deer in the headlights" look when he told me 7 p.m. because he quickly explained, "Most of what goes in the morning paper happens at night, so that's when we're here."

Should have figured that one out, if I had really thought about it, I guess.

On most nights, there are at least half a dozen editors in the newsroom, reading and editing stories written by a dozen or more reporters who have gone to public meetings, trials, school events, awards banquets or breaking news such as car accidents, fires or shootings.

Those stories are coupled with photos and graphics, then processed - by a 12:30 a.m. deadline - to negatives by the pagination department. The pressmen use the negatives to make plates that combine with paper and ink to give us the final product, usually by 3 a.m.

Mailroom workers insert ads and bundle papers before sending them to the loading dock, where delivery drivers pick them up before sunrise and hit the roads.

That way, you have your paper to start your day.

And we can go home to end ours.

The night ones stay in their places until morning.

Then Cap watches a ship head out, sailing east; Amelia turns her back on the office that circles the world; Porter tips his hat to Oscar, who will hold the door all day; Honey greets the avenue with a heavenly smell; and Clarence spins himself out the last important door.

When the night ones reach their stop, the night bus pulls away to make room for the morning bus, which takes them home.




Joel Huffer is managing editor of The Morning Herald. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7587, or by e-mail at joelh@herald-mail.com.

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