How the Monitor works

Here's the story of how one story got into this newspaper

The tale begins. It's 2 p.m. in Jerusalem, but that's only 7 a.m. in Boston, where the Monitor's main offices are located. Middle East correspondent Cameron Barr is back in his office after reporting a story with Monitor photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman. He raps out an e-mail to international news editor David Clark Scott: "We've got a great story!" Mel's pictures, taken with a digital camera, are on their way, also by e-mail. Cameron needs more time to finish his story, but he sends a short description of it and an estimated "word count" (story length). He sends a copy of his message to the Middle East "desk" editor in Boston. She's the expert on the region and will do the "first edit" on the story when it arrives.

"Thanks! Sounds like a possibility for page 1," Dave replies. The final decision will be made later, when senior editors gather at the page 1 meeting to decide what will go into the paper.

Mel's photos, meanwhile, have gone to news photo editor Tom Toth, who views them on his computer. He selects the ones that illustrate the story best, and decides how large or small they should be. He may also "crop" them - decide which part of each photo to use.

Other international writers have been telephoning, e-mailing, or faxing their "pitches" (story proposals). Dave starts to create a list of stories to present at the page 1 meeting.

Decision time. At the page 1 meeting, the national and international news editors meet with the editor, managing editor, photo editor, a layout designer, an artist, and others to decide which news stories will be in the next issue of the Monitor. (Feature stories, editorials, and "News in Brief" are another story.) Cameron's piece and two of Melanie's photos are chosen to go on page 1. His story of a Jewish girl and a Palestinian girl caught up in the Mideast turmoil will begin "out front" and "jump" to the center of the paper (called the "Zee Page") with more photos. A layout designer starts to sketch how the front page will look.

Say it with pictures. Images - mostly digital ones, now -are taken by staff photographers, "stringers" (freelance photographers), or are drawn from online photo agencies (AP, Reuters, and others). An online archive of staff photos is also used. A huge archive (1 million-plus images) of color slides and black-and-white photos is stored in the newsroom.

How about a map? Early in the process, an editor might have suggested that a small "locator" map (like the one shown here) be created to run with the story. An artist would have researched the locations in the story and checked to see if a map created earlier could be adapted. Making a map from scratch involves tracing, scanning, sizing, and coloring -as well as setting and positioning type. Artists create charts, special headlines, and illustrations, too.

All the news that fits. Page designers sit at computers with big, 21-inch screens. They arrange stories, photos, and "graphics" (charts, maps, etc.) on a page to create an inviting design. The design also must give each story its proper "play" (display appropriate to its importance). Designers have to think fast, especially when an editor runs over on deadline to ask: "Can we get 200 more words for the China story?"

Deadline! Cameron's story has been fact-checked and edited (twice); headlines and "cutlines" (photo captions) have been written and approved. It's ready. A full-size "proof" page is printed out and photocopied for a final check by the copydesk and others. Meanwhile ...

Prepress. Colors in the digital images are adjusted so they will print accurately. Prepress then sends the completed pages to the printing plants one "signature" (four pages) at a time via a dedicated phone line. The Monitor's Internet staff prepares the paper for Web, PDA (personal digital assistant), and RCA eBook readers.

Start the presses! Printing plants near Boston, Chicago, and Redwood City, Calif., receive the digital files from Prepress. The data are used to "burn" printing plates. As the Monitor is in full color, four printing plates are needed to print each four-page signature.

Each plate prints one color: cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow, or black. These four colors, in combination, create all the colors you see in the newspaper.

The plates are mounted on the presses, the presses are started up, and the inking is adjusted until the papers are printing well. A machine sprays subscribers' names and addresses (8,000 per hour!) on the Monitors as they leave the press.

By truck or by plane. Most of the papers are bagged according to zip code for mail delivery. Some are bundled for doorstep morning delivery by local distributors. The papers then are trucked or flown to 39 cities nationwide.

The Monitors are delivered to large postal-processing centers. Now they are US mail. Mail trucks take the papers to 325 "sectional centers," where they are routed to local post offices and - finally! - sorted into carriers' mailbags for delivery.

The Christian Science Monitor arrives in your mailbox with the rest of that day's mail. Whew! The story's journey is finished: from halfway around the world, right to your home!

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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