Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Just Another Night on the Desk
Copy editors and designers are known for working in anonymity. Even when they hustle on a big story, they get little notice.

These two front pages from The News & Observer on Friday reflect that. Late Thursday, explosions at a hazardous waste plant in Apex, N.C., forced thousands of people to evacuate. The story happened late enough in the news cycle that it updated significantly between editions.

The N&O publishes four editions each night, with each version of the paper going to a different part of the circulation area. Each successive edition has a later deadline. Generally speaking, that means readers on the Outer Banks get the early edition while people in Raleigh get the latest. On most days, the differences on the front page are so small that only the most sharp-eyed reader would notice. The differences are usually more apparent in sections of local news and in sports.

In this example, however, the front-page changes between editions are dramatic: The fire story goes from the top of the page with a map to top half with a six-column photo. Other stories go to the bottom of the page or into another section. The news summary disappears. All of this means hard work in a hurry for designers and copy editors as well as reporters, graphics artists and photographers.

Of course, most readers never knew the difference unless they happened to buy the paper in Chapel Hill and Raleigh on the same day. Yet for the desk, it's all in a night's work.

UPDATE: Ted Vaden, the public editor at the N&O, writes about the coverage of the fire in this column.
posted by Andy Bechtel at 11:44 AM | Permalink |