The death last week of my friend Laura Fryer has me thinking about the work we do to make a newspaper. She loved newspapers — not just the news part, but the paper part, too. As production manager for the Philadelphia Business Journal, every week Laura laid out the newspaper’s pages, collating and organizing the sheets of type and the photos and ads and cartoons into crisp pasted-up rectangles. These were photographed; the negatives became the printing plates that, once attached to the drums of the presses, would pick up and lay down ink on newsprint, fed from giant rolls weighing tons.
The way the Swarthmorean is made today is not all that different. We use digital design programs to process text, spec type and make page layouts, but the printing process is pretty much as I remember it from my fifth grade class trip to the Wilmington News-Journal. Maybe you have similarly indelible memories of a newspaper visit.
Here’s how we work: from Thursday afternoon to Wednesday morning, we gather news and photos, write articles, secure advertising and lay out 8 or 12 pages. Between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the paper is printed and baled at Press Publishing in Drexel Hill. Thursday is mailing day: we apply labels, sort by zone and carrier route and take to various post offices. By Friday evening, most of you are holding the Swarthmorean in your hands. It’s an analog process in a digital world, a lot of real work that is essential to the creation of the newspaper that you readers tell us you love.
Of course, this year we also became publishers of an online edition of the Swarthmorean. It’s popular with many of our subscribers, and with others we hope will become subscribers. To that end, we will soon be entering a new phase of our online plan. Starting in April, readers will be required to subscribe to the newspaper in order to get full online contents. We are still evaluating paywall options, but it will most likely be as easy as signing in at swarthmorean.com and verifying your print subscription. If you are not already a print subscriber, you can easily order a subscription through the website.
Down the road, we may offer online-only subscriptions, but for now our core business will continue to involve reporting on your town, putting stories in ink on paper, and getting the paper to your mailbox. There is honest work involved, and satisfaction. But in order to continue in this endeavor, we need your support — as readers, as advertisers, and as paying subscribers. Keep us working for you.