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Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Epic Adventure of Page Eight

As part of journalism school, we put out our own newspaper. Not just writing it, but the students are responsible for the website and the layout of the print edition. So every month, we have what we call, Production Days, where we lay out our monthly paper. Last Friday was a Production Day, and the experience was so frustratingly memorable, I am writing it down for my posterity. Or...my sisters, who will likely be the only people to read this page.

Scene: The Calgary Journal Newsroom, five minutes before production. Students are hurrying in to get a good computer terminal so they do not get stuck with the one where the spacebar doesn't work, or worse yet, the one where the shift key is missing. Enter Mild-Mannered Elena. And yes, she is mild-mannered at this point because she's just finished her Ethics essay and is thinking, "As soon as I finish production, I can go home, and it'll be the weekend. It won't take long." (Perhaps, Elena is naive as well as mild-mannered at this point).

Enter professor Terry, who does his usual beginning of production speech (which no one really takes in) and begins delegating people to work for different section editors according to how many pages that section has.

Elena looks around (no longer mild-mannered, more apprehensive), looking for an editor she likes. Sadly, there are few. She thinks wistfully back to last semester when she could always just work with Jessica Petillot.

Terry asks for volunteers for the Theme section, led by editor-in-chief, Scott. Elena volunteers with four of her friends, as Scott looks nice enough, and Theme should be an interesting enough section to work on.

Scott comes around giving out assignments and meeting his lab rats. This months theme is the recession (surprise, surprise).

Scott: (extending his hand) Hi, I'm Scott.
Elena: (putting down the sandwich she's in the middle of eating and trying to look professional) Hi, I'm Elena.
Scott: Elena Redd?
Elena: Yeah.
Scott: Wow, I really liked your story.
(Elena's liking of Editor Scott goes up)

Pages are assigned to the five Theme lab rats; Nori, Marie, Nichole, Kylie and Elena. Each will be given two pages to lay out and edit.

Scott: Okay, who wants to do the hardest page editing wise?
SILENCE.
Elena: (Already having her ego boosted that day) I'll do it.
Nori: (consulting layout diagram) You can't Elena. Your story is on one of these pages.
(Elena secretly thinks to herself that she looks awesome, because she volunteered, and she doesn't even have to do it, cause she has a good excuse)
Scott: That's okay. I don't mind if you edit your own work.
Elena: Oh okay.
Scott: Be sure to make your photo the largest, cause it's the best.
(Elena does a happy dance in her chair)

Cocky Elena sets to work, having her ego stroked much more then is healthy, and ignores all the warnings her professors and Nori have ever given her on trying to edit your own writing.

Her two pages have three stories between them. One, which is 1500 words, but be paired down to 1100 and gets it's own page. The other two (including Elena's) are both 800 words and must be paired down to 400 a piece. Elena chooses to begin with the other 800 word story, written by Zoey.

(Elena opens story)
Elena: Oh look! Zoey wrote her story on spending less on groceries. So did I. How did our professors not notice this?
(Elena edits down to 560 words, and is also relieved that Zoey's story centers more around the Good Food Box, where hers is all about buying in bulk. She then turns to her own story, and manages to get all her carefully crafted sentences down to 700, but no further)

Enter professor Janice, or rather, Elena takes notice of Janice. She really has been sitting with Marie for several minutes by the time Elena looks up.

Elena: (raising her hand) Janice? I need a hand editing.
Janice: (getting a chair and joining Elena) Goody, that's what I'm here for. And I'm prepared. (she holds up a plastic knife for "cutting." Elena can't decide between being amused or wierded out)
(Janice then proceeds to cut Elena's story down to 430 words, with Elena whimpering the whole way through. Thankfully, Janice also helps inflate Elena's ego by being as disappointed as Elena that the story must be cut down)

Beginning of Phase 2: Now that her stories are about the right size, Elena begins arranging them in InDesign. Zoey's story stretched out across the top and her own along the bottom.

Nori: (looking over from her own computer, where she is much farther along) Didn't Scott have that page with a vertical layout?
Elena: (trying to hide her dismay) I don't remember. I'll got ask him. (Elena walks over to the back room, where editors like to hide) Hey Scott, did you want page 8 to be vertical?
Scott: Oh yeah. We're a vertical section.
Elena: Fantastic. (she slumps back to her computer and starts from scratch. This is where she makes the transition from Cocky Elena to Annoyed Elena)

Problem one: Elena's story is longer, but the photo must be bigger.
Problem two: Zoey's is longer, but her photo is supposed to be smaller.
Problem three: Elena feels like a jerk cause it sounds like she's favouring her own work when she explains these problems to her classmates.

First, she tries putting in her photo. It looks so nice she reverts to Cocky Elena for 0.3 seconds. Elena's story and headline fit in nicely under the photo. Elena does a happy dance in her chair which Kylie makes fun of.
Then she tries putting Zoey's story in. Hers is much too long to for the space. Elena tries to edit, but can't cut anymore if she wants it to make sense. Reverts to Annoyed Elena.

Next plan, move Zoey's photo into space not needed for Elena's shorter story. Everything fits, but it looks ridiculous. Annoyed Elena evolves into Ballistic Elena.

Nori, who is already on her second page, leans over, seeing that Elena is about to explode.
Nori: Just make it a horizontal layout. (she takes the mouse from Elena's clenched fist and begins rearranging the page. Elena is slightly cowed)
Scott, who is walking by: Yeah, I guess you can make it a horizontal layout if it's not working.

Elena starts the page a third time. Everything fits and she begins to work in some of the more mundane details like photo credits and bylines. Kylie gets ready to leave, having finished her two pages. Tranfer to Jealous Elena.

The page fits! Elena is overjoyed! She calls over layout professor Brad to approve it. The end is in sight......

Brad rearranges the entire page. 

Ballistic Elena returns, and begins to bang her head against the desk. Nori passes over an Advil and some guacamole.

At last, at long last, the page is done, the photos have been resized, and it's passed final approval. Now all Elena has to do is one more page.....

Not surprisingly, I was the last lab rat left in the newsroom. And do you want to know the really sad thing? This is a pretty typical Production Day.

3 comments:

Kayjer said...

I enjoyed hearing about the day from your perspective! And I didn't mean to laugh at your happy dance. It was cute, and, well, funny! But not in a I-will-laugh-maliciously kind of way.

And PS? Would've helped assemble had you asked :(

queenofthepierealm said...

Don't worry, I know it wasn't malicious. And yes, I could have asked for help, but Nori was mostly doing it anyway.

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