Working for a Newspaper

I have been working since October as an ad designer for The Atlantic News Telegraph. Recently, I was promoted to Composition Manager. A Composition Manager is basically just an ad designer that happens to be responsible for everything such as mistakes, new clients, layouts, department budget, computer issues, web advertising, and so on. The list could go on forever. I am taking on new tasks daily. I was promoted so quickly due to my eagerness to update and modernize the old. That was an important lesson that I learned right off the bat. Work hard and show enthusiasm for your job and you will be rewarded. When I first began working there, I noticed many things were still being done as they had 5-10 years prior. They hired me because I was in school, had a well organized portfolio, and many fresh enthusiastic ideas.

5 AM
A day in my life is very hectic and chaotic at times. The first thing I think about at 5AM before my workout is… DEADLINES. Everything at a newspaper is about deadlines.
After my workout, I take my girls to school and stop to get coffee and head to work by 8AM (depending on what is due, it may be much earlier).

8 AM
First thing in the morning, I pull all the designers in to go over what needs to be done by the end of the day. It is like a teacher giving out assignments. This way, there is no confusion about who is doing what and no time is wasted. The daily newspaper ads always get designed first. They range from local car dealerships to Hy-Vee (grocery store) to Kmart. Most of the ads are completely designed and laid out by us, but sometimes they are done by corporate and emailed in as PDFs. Then all we do is size and fit into an ad.

10 AM
After daily ads are out of the way, we move on to our bigger projects such as MLS (real estate guide) or The Southwest Iowa Shopper. The MLS is one we are currently working on. It is a monthly tab (booklet) that consists evenly of the four realtors locally. They split the price of it between them and share the space. It is always eighteen pages long and each page consists of dozens of houses or apartments with full descriptions. It is a huge project to tackle monthly and we usually only have a weeks time to proof and finish. It is completely designed and laid out by us monthly.

We have many other tabs. We just finished a bridal tab in January that was a lot of fun. We do a coloring book every year for kids and we also have one called Middle Scene which is a booklet for seniors about healthcare and nursing homes.

When we are finished with MLS this month it will be time to move on to our annual Progress edition. It is a huge tab that consists of ten sections sorted by industry. It is a tab meant to show the community how well business has progressed in the last year. I think it is beneficial for the community to know this information. Each section in 6-8 pages long so this tab ends up being fairly large. It will print March 24 so we will have a month to finish it. Then of course, MLS will be due at the same time.

On Thursdays, I have to download the next weeks TV Guides to go in the daily paper and we also begin working on The Southwest Iowa Shopper, which prints every Monday. Some of you probably have a shopper or something like it in your community. It is a free weekly paper that consists of ads and classifieds. It also contains the local retailers and grocery store inserted ads.

1 PM
Throughout the day I also have meetings with clients about new design ideas and also something I hate…misprints. It doesn’t occur everyday but it does happen quite often. When it does, I am the one that has to answer for everyone. Yesterday, Dale from Fareway (a local grocery store), came in when he received his Shopper. Every week he runs a big four page insert that has a double spread and a front and a back. We accidentally printed it with two back pages and the double spread. I couldn’t believe it made it all the way to delivery. I have to apologize (I felt terrible) and I agreed to run the entire insert in tomorrows paper free of charge.

I have also been in meetings with our publisher dealing with our budget and working on finding ways to cut costs for new equipment and supplies. So far I have gotten us new software, a new computer (we need three), a new hard drive, a super drive, and a new camera. These things have saved us time with less technical difficulties. We work strictly on Macs (which I love) and were very behind in the times.

I also have had many meetings with the fire department about their annual convention book. This year’s convention for the state is being held here and I landed the job of designing and laying out the book. It will end up being about 800 pages long in full color. It will be very time consuming but exciting!

I know you are thinking that this all sounds pretty boring but honestly I am using my education (what little I have). Things can be pretty routine and standard but many times we get to be creative and revamp an old layout or completely design new ones. I use creativity everyday and that is all I ever wanted in a job. I am gaining experience in my field and am successful in it so far. This is good to know I didn’t choose the wrong field! I have also gained much experience with Quark, Multi-Ad Creator, and Macs. These are all things I did not know how to use before I worked there. I work long hours and sometimes my day begins at 7AM and doesn’t end until 9PM (Fridays usually). I work in a wonderful environment though. It is a place where no man is left behind so if I stay late, no one else will leave until the job is done. We all care about each other like a family and everyone helps out. We have our ups and downs and we make mistakes but our motto is: One person’s mistakes and triumphs are another’s. I don’t plan on working here forever but I do love the satisfaction I get from my job.

2 Responses to “Working for a Newspaper”


  • I work with a couple of girls who use to work for a newspaper and I’ve often heard how hectic it can be. It’s wild though, as stressful as it sounds they actually enjoyed the fast pace atmosphere! It sounds like you do as well. Man…that takes a special breed.

    How do you all feel about news moving to the internet? Do you see signs of it affecting your newspaper?

  • i do not really notice the internet affecting the paper in anyway but then again, I wasn’t there before. If it anything, it does make my job more productive when proofing or receiving ads that are already built. Those are a big help in a hectic day. As far as news being on the internet, I find it very useful for those of us who don’t even subscribe a newspaper. We don’t publish all our news on our website, but we do reel in quite a few new subscribers with it. They can subscribe right on our site.

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