Look carefully at this sentence. Closer.
You might think it is just a bit of black ink, but you’re only half right.
Interspersed in the ink and blended into the blank spaces is a bucket-load of sweat and blood.
Many readers wake up on a Wednesday morning with a cup of coffee and a TygerBurger.
Some will briefly page through the newspaper and put it down again and others will read articles and study the advertisements.
Few would, however, comprehend the extreme complexities and precision involved in getting the 12 editions of TygerBurger done, dusted and delivered.
One paragraph – albeit long – would suffice in explanation: The quantity of advertisements, which is garnered by advertising consultants and designed by graphic artists, determine the size of the newspaper. The open spaces are then filled with articles, written by journalists and laid out by a layout artist. Then this is sent to the printers, separated into four plates, printed, supplemented and then, finally – and exhaustively – delivered to almost 300 000 homes and businesses across the northern suburbs.
Let’s dissect the complete process into manageable proportions.
Garth Hewitt, advertising manager, explains the first stage: “We don’t just decide the size of the newspapers arbitrarily. More advertisements mean more pages. We aim for a balance of 70 % ads and 30 % editorial.”
The advertising consultants will contact clients in their specific areas (or they themselves will be approached) to advertise in one or more editions.
One of these consultants who have been with Media24 for 23 years, Michiel Engelbrecht, elaborates: “We have to see a minimum of four clients a day. I sell for Parow and Goodwood and have at least 100 clients…”
His phone rings.
After a brief interlude he continues: “When I started working here in 1989 we had to draw all the ads up by hand! It is much easier these days. Now we book an ad, send proofs to the client and do all the admin ourselves.”
His phone rings again and another client’s needs need to be fulfilled.
On to the desktop publishing (DTP) department!
Says head of DTP in Bellville Shabbier Fortuin: “The ads come to us electronically from the consultants and if these are already completed then we export it to the pages. Some ads must still be designed, which we will do, send to the client and get approved. After one last check we will send the pages (electronically) to the printer in Paarden Island.”
Everything these days is done electronically, with all systems and programmes connected within the vast Media24 ether.
According to Shabbier and Michiel, their biggest challenge is to get the ads approved by clients in good time.
This industry is filled with deadlines.
Some live with it (“Deadlines just aren’t real to me until I’m staring one in the face”), some poke fun at it (“I love the whooshing noise deadlines make as they go by”), but most tend to have a strong disliking towards it (“Life without deadlines is bliss”).
Deadlines proliferate in the editorial department. Journalists collect a selection of possible articles by phoning around and setting up face to face intervies.
Email is also a valuable tool. Journalists will be notified of events, meetings or press conferences and then, after all the information is gathered and all sides to a story covered, an article is written.
Sometimes written queries are sent to a spokesperson and once again a deadline is given for response.
By Friday afternoon all the “softer” news articles (such as social events and school news) must be completed. By Monday afternoon most of the editions’ news articles and features on people in the community must have been submitted for approval to the news editor, Marana Brand van Hulsteyn. She will then check and suggest changes to be made.
Marana chooses from the articles and determines in which edition and on which page these must be placed.
Page plans are then sent to the layout artists who undertake a meticulous process of placing articles.
A clarification on this process was sought, but layout artist Stehan Schoeman wasn’t in the mood to explain and just said: “Hello. I’m Stehan. I do layout.”
The laid-out articles are read by the sub-editors, who correct the grammatical errors, check facts and write headlines and then re-check.
Marana takes a moment to answer a few questions readers often have when she says: “People sometimes wonder why they sent us an article or notice and then we change it or don’t even use it at all. As Garth has explained: space is determined by the number of ads, not the amount of news. So unless you pay, we cannot guarantee publication, or how much of your item will get published. Not everything our reporters write make it in the newspaper every week.
“We also have a certain style and will change a piece to fit that style. And very importantly: this mostly entails writing it to fit what the reader wants to hear, not what we – or the person who submitted the piece – wants to say.
“We also have just one reporter per area. So it is impossible to attend everything and be everywhere. That’s why we depend heavily on contributions from our readers, and will gladly consider publishing pics sent to us.”
Once the articles have been placed on the page along with the advertisements and the 200 to 300 pages have each been checked and approved by Marana, a file of each page is sent to the printing press.
Four of the 12 editions “go to bed” (are signed off) at 12:00 on a Tuesday and the other eight at 16:00 – after surviving impossible pressure.
Brent Sasman, client services and sales manager for the Cape Town branch of Coldset (the company that prints TygerBurger), says: “We receive the pages in a PDF file format, and then a computer programme splits each page into four component colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Each one of these will then be burnt onto a separate plate and then the four will be placed on top of one another.”
Brent took TygerBurger on a tour of the printing presses, which were droning deafeningly while he explained the ins and the outs.
While his lips moved inaudibly, rolls of clear paper whizzed into one hole, skipped up a level, down a level, printing one layer here, one layer there, twisted, turned, flipped and somersaulted into a flurry of bewilderment. Once the long line of newspaper pages have been cut to size and fitted together they are roller coasted to a myriad of rooms where inserts are added mechanically or by hand.
The next day at 05:00 the On the Dot distributers pick up countless stacks of newspapers from the printers and go to the areas they service.
Jason Slamet from On the Dot wakes up at 02:45 and picks up eight workers before they collect over 6 100 newspapers and deliver these to houses in Durbanville.
At 06:00 they will start walking from house to house, come wind or rain, and ensure that TygerBurger is delivered. And so the process is completed, only to start again. And again. Blood and sweat – for you!