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Only one deadline? Why?

Ed Henninger

by Ed Henninger
Independent Newspaper Consultant

You’ve done it again. Success! Every page in this week’s (or day’s) paper is in by deadline. It took some doing, but like almost every issue before it, you’ve created another miracle: cramming thousands of words and photos together into your latest newspaper. And … you’ve and done it on deadline.

Well, before you stroll from your desk brimming with pride, let’s take a closer look at the “miracle.” Every page is in, perhaps, but most of them went to prepress in the last half-day (or last hour). 

So, yes, all the pages are “in,” but you’ve created a problem for those who have to turn those pages into files that can be processed and printed. 

And consider the concerns of those in the newsroom who have to design, edit and clear those pages by deadline. If something is wrong on one of the pages they’re working on, then they have to take extra time to fix the problem, often having to go back to the originating editor or writer. With six or eight other pages waiting to be cleared, the pressure mounts.

So, yes, you have a “deadline.” And, yes, you may be meeting that “deadline.” But the “deadline” isn’t helping you with a steady page flow.

Here’s a solution: Page-by-page deadlines.

henninger column - deadline clock
What’s your page-by-page deadline?

Why, for example, would you wait until the last hour to clear your opinion page, when the columns and letters that go on that page can be edited and headlined the day before your weekly deadline? And why wait until that last hour for the community calendar page to be cleared? Is there any reason why the weekly religion page (with its static directory of area worship services) should be among the last pages to go to prepress? 

Sure, there are pages you’ll want to hold until the last hour (or last minute!). Page 1 and its jump page and the Sports front and jump come to mind. You can work on those more effectively if you’ve already cleared those pages (see previous paragraph) that can go early.

There are too many variations and too many other factors (like advertising placement and deadlines) for me to offer a set of page deadlines here — for either a weekly or daily newspaper. I’m confident, though, that you can take a look at your paper’s content and decide upon those pages that can be cleared days (or hours) before deadline.

Creating a system of staggered page deadlines offers you the opportunity to avoid the bottlenecks and hassles that accompany a “one-deadline-for-all” approach to producing your paper.

Seems to me it’s worth giving it a try.

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ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting. Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact Ed: edh@henningerconsulting.com | 803-325-5252.

(c) Copyright 2019 by Ed Henninger.