Friday, June 22, 2001
Its a big production
Although I had been a Mosquito reporter for several years, when I started as news editor last November, I had no idea how the newspaper actually comes together. I observed the quiet start on Monday and the build-up of activity to a frantic crescendo on Wednesday afternoon, as waves of typists, proofers, and computer techies arrived in the offices and, seemingly without supervision, scurried around the production room busily typing, reading, correcting.until a moment when feature editor Marilyn Harte would smile and say, "I think we're done." And poof, another issue was ready. Just like Santa's workshop, I thought.
Each week the cycle starts on Sunday afternoon when Joanne Forsberg, probably the longest serving Mosquito production staff member comes in and begins to type whatever news and press releases have been received. Joanne is our "stealth typist", invisible to the rest of the staff, except by her error free, perfectly formatted work.
On Monday morning Verna Gilbert arrives early, checks for new articles and submissions that arrived via Email, Fax or Mosquito dropbox, and formats the week's pages in PageMaker. Hal Shneider readies the "boards" (master pages) for the new issue. Proofreader Bea Shneider arrives on Monday afternoon and begins the iterative tasks of proofreading every story, announcement, and advertisement. Nothing gets past Bea, a former English teacher. Not only does the spelling have to be correct, but the tenses better be consistent and there better be commas separating the thoughts. Bea knows commas .
On Tuesday Melinda Howe and Sarah Hart type, download Email and format late arriving stories. Bea and her blue pen are there again on Tuesday Afternoon. A high tech crew comes in on Tuesday evenings to begin formatting digital photos and laying out pages on the computers. Helen Lyons, Jane Hart and former news editor Carolynn Luby alternates on Tuesday evenings. Marjorie Johnson can do everything write, edit, format pages but usually we need her, and Hal, to size, crop, enhance, and otherwise prepare digital and scanned photographs. Sometimes they remove unwanted elements from a busy background, but so far they have never switched heads.
On Wednesday the 'finish crew' arrives, including proofers Carolyn Armistead, Seba Gaines, Natalie Ives, and Ellen Miller. Betty McCullough, a veteran of 20 years on the Mosquito, comes in wearing her favorite whites and pastels, but recalls the dirty old bluejean days when the Compugraphic typesetter gizmo would spew out slimy, smelly toner over the floor and the operators. These days the computer really sings for Betty as she points and clicks and makes the text and headlines fit the page.
By mid-afternoon on Wednesday it gets really hectic as editors discover holes on pages 5, 6, 10, 12, and 17. Lee Milliken finds graphics to plug the small holes; Hal enlarges a map; someone finds a nice scenic photo. The news editor panics after she scrambles the columns on the front page. "Betty"!
Today I know that there is a production plan, but I still believe that someone on our production staff has a magic wand. Thanks guys.
by Ellen J. Miller
When we moved to Carlisle seven years ago, we were eager for information about our new home. Where's the nearest supermarket? The closest gas station? How can I avoid Route 2 in my commute (answer: I can't)? Who will paint our house? What about a plumber? Some of the answers came from our Realtor, others from neighbors, still others from the seller of our house. All these were face-to-face encounters with helpful, friendly folks. Today, though, there's a virtual community of online Carlisleans sharing information and ideas, or venting about problems. It's the equivalent of the over-the-back-fence neighborly chat.
These chats take place on two Internet discussion groups for Carlisle residents: cityinthewoods (subscribe at www.yahoogroups.com) and the bulletin board at Carlisle Community Center (subscribe at http://carlisle.lotus.com). Groups on the Web offer a venue for more topics than you can possibly imagine, ranging from the frivolous to the potentially life-saving. A friend's husband belongs to several online support groups for treating prostate cancer with alternative therapies. I'm a member of some diverse groups publications managers, tournament Scrabble players and a literary society. You might think that online junkies spend hours and hours in incessant conversation with faceless people with strange aliases, but not necessarily. Groups wax and wane, and there may be as few as five messages a week, or as many as twenty or more a day from each one.
All online groups consist of active posters (those who post messages) as well as "lurkers," those who read them but don't participate. Every now and then, someone will post a message that starts apologetically with, "I've been a lurker until now, but I had to write . . . " I'm a lurker on cityinthewoods, where last month a discussion "thread" was about a new, non-electronic backyard mosquito zapper for $400; female mosquitoes get sucked into a bag by a tiny vacuum and die. Skepticism abounded as Carlisle subscribers wondered if this really worked. Someone ordered it and promised to report on its effectiveness, but at last word the new product was back-ordered. Mosquitoes rejoiced at the reprieve. A flurry of recent messages dealt with a proposal for getting DSL Internet access into Carlisle through a shared local enterprise. There were inquiries about "saltless" water softeners (call Friot's) and where to buy hay bales (Agway or Erikson).
Some contemporary sociologists discredit the Web as a medium for sharing views and meeting people. They warn that posters may not be who they claim to be and that digital information cannot always be trusted. David Singer, a senior software engineer with IBM, once said about e-mail, "Technology is wonderful, but only up to a point. It is not supposed to replace human relationships. It's just supposed to make them easier."
Longer-term Carlisle residents often lament the loss of neighborliness as people lead more chaotic lives. While face-to-face conversations at the transfer station or the post office about water softeners, DSL, mosquitoes and hay bales are certainly preferable to electronic talks, they're not always possible. The 24/7 access to our online neighbors won't replace human relationships, but it's another footpath to community-building in our small town.
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