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We need calendar items early because you count on us

September 11, 2005|By Jake Womer

Two weeks before an event is when we ask to receive items for our calendar of events.

For a daily newspaper, that seems like a long time. For employees of The Herald-Mail Co., that's long enough to publish 24 editions.

But I wish it were longer and here's why: Calendar pages.

In the Lifestyle department, two of our event calendars are the Out & About calendar that runs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and the Community page calendar that runs Sundays.

The calendars have tested well in reader surveys. They're crammed with local information and ideas for things to do. I love to read them, but I loathe editing them.

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For the purpose of this column, I counted 114 separate listings in Thursday's Out & About calendar. That equates to something like 2,700 digits to double-check each Wednesday.

Here's roughly how one announcement appears today on page E2:

Melissa Mills will teach a class on the basics and techniques of chalk pastels. The class will take an in-depth look at color blending. 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19. Also Thursday, Sept. 29, and Monday, Oct. 3. Contemporary School of the Arts, 4 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown. $55 plus supplies. Supplies available at the school before the class. Call 301-791-6191 or send e-mail to mnmills_99@hotmail.com.

There are 24 digits in that announcement, not counting those in the e-mail address.

Just sticking with digits throughout the calendar, here's a sample of how many digits we needed to get right Thursday: 1,140 for phone numbers; at least 228 for dates; 300 for times; 250 for addresses; 200 for ticket prices and admission fees.

I'm breaking it down by digits because, if we get one wrong, a whole listing is wrong. That's embarrassing and can send readers on a wild goose chase. If we have the time wrong, someone could miss an entire event. If a date's wrong, forget about it.

Then, there are all of the other facts in the announcement, from name to description to e-mail addresses.

Every newspaper deals with it, but more time to handle an announcement makes things easier.

If someone mails a concert announcement to the Lifestyle department Friday for an event three Sundays away, it first must get through our mail trailer. All of our mail is opened outside the building for security, but this can slow the flow.

From the mail trailer, it comes to my inbox maybe on Monday with other press releases - easily 1,000 pages per week. I sort it out Tuesday, mark the page for the music category of the calendar and hand it to an editorial assistant. By Friday, an editorial assistant has typed it into a calendar with 113 other items and those 2,700 digits.

So typos are likely.

On the following Monday, once Tuesday and Wednesday pages are far enough along in the production process, an editor starts reading the calendar against each hard copy. Errors are caught and corrections are made.

Inevitably, late announcements arrive with the mail, and we speed them through the process to add to the calendar.

On Tuesday, that editor lays out all of the calendar pages, fitting in as many items as possible and adding pictures and graphics.

On Wednesday, the pages are proofed. Other corrections are made, and the section is sent to press for Thursday's paper. The concert will be coming up that Sunday.

Then, on Thursday, we're proofing the Community page calendar for Sunday and doing 14 other pages in the Lifestyle department.

Two weeks go by quickly when you're editing a calendar, eyes swimming with numbers.

Jake Womer is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, or by e-mail at jakew@herald-mail.com.

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