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Progress: Making newspapers a reality

RiverTown Multimedia pressroom foreman Dan Johnson has worked for the company for about 17 years. He said much of the publishing process has changed with technology, but the actual printing process has remained relatively similar. 1 / 11
1. Reporters make phone calls, attend meetings and events and talk with people before sitting down to write stories and briefs for the twice-weekly Republican Eagle newspaper. Reporters here also take most of their own photographs to accompany stories. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)2 / 11
2. After talking with business representatives and others interested in advertising online or in the newspapers, advertising employees often work with designers to create the ads. Other employees work on legal notices, classifieds and other information printed in the paper. 3 / 11
3. The newspaper is designed and put together on computers. Digital versions of the pages are filled with text, photographs and advertisements. 4 / 11
4. After the pages are designed and proofread, they are digitally sent to be printed. Employees review the pages, then the files are made into a plate. Here, a plate runs through a chemical bath, part of the process before it is sent to the press. 5 / 11
5. A plate is sent out of a machine that crimped and rolled it to fit the press machinery. 6 / 11
6. The plate is inserted into the press, ready to be printed on sheets of paper. Plates are recycled after use. 7 / 11
7. Press machinery prints copies of the second section of a Republican Eagle edition. 8 / 11
8. Advertising inserts are added to the newspapers, which are then addressed to be mailed to subscribers and sent to newsstands. Circulation staff members keep addresses and information updated and manage subscriptions.9 / 11
9. Advertising inserts are added to the newspapers, which are then addressed to be mailed to subscribers and sent to newsstands. Circulation staff members keep addresses and information updated and manage subscriptions.10 / 11
10. The Republican Eagle newspaper is printed twice a week, but the presses at the Red Wing building also put out a number of other publications weekly, as well as a handful of high school and college newspapers during the school year and special sections, such as booklets and flyers. 11 / 11

From reporting to coordinating advertisements to managing subscriptions, a lot goes into producing and delivering a copy of the Republican Eagle — or any newspaper — to homes, businesses and newsstands.

But it would all be for nothing if not for those who physically put together the paper copies.

The Red Wing office that houses the Republican Eagle also is home to a printing plant that puts out 25 publications weekly and prints some high school and college newspapers and special one-time sections, booklets, flyers and other materials.

RiverTown Multimedia pressroom foreman Dan Johnson said that’s something that likely would surprise a lot of people.

“They think of us as just the R-E, and that’s just a small part of what we do,” he said.

Johnson, who has worked for RiverTown for about 17 years, attended Dakota County Technical College to train for press work. He said he thought there would always be a need for print.

“I’ve always been one that works with my hand, so it suits me,” Johnson added.

In the time since he’s worked at RiverTown, the production process has become much more digitalized.

But while technology has significantly changed the lead-up work, which is now done on computers instead of by hand, “the actual printing process hasn’t really changed,” Johnson said.

Still, the technological advances have streamlined the process and made “leaps and bounds” in the last 10 years or so, Johnson said.

It’s more efficient at times, but also is just another way of doing things, Johnson said — not necessarily worse or better.

Each press room and printing operation also does its work differently, especially depending on what it is producing.

“The principles are the same, the process is different” he said, down to the inks and paper. This is the fourth pressroom Johnson has worked in, he said, including a publishing house and high-end commercial shop.

He said working at a newspaper is also different due to those times when they have to run the paper later than normal because of elections, major sporting events or other planned late-night news — and also the unplanned events, such as the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen,” he said.

This story originally appeared in part 3 of the 2014 Red Wing Republican Eagle Progress Edition, titled Start to Finish. The three-part series features local businesses, artisans and community groups describing their step-by-step processes. 

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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