From us to you: how the news meets the paper

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dear Readers:

Bird cage liner or news you can use? You judge.

A year ago, I wrote about how the Business section of The Sun operates. Here's Volume II.

If you've tried to reach us during the past year, you probably know that our communications skills work lots better in print than over the telephone. We've worked hard at doing better, but the volume of frustrated callers who finally get through to me is large enough for me to know that we're not doing a great job.

(If you want to reach any of us, and it's not a time-related emergency, a personal letter remains a very effective means of getting our attention. Although we receive mounds of press materials each day, personal letters are less common.)

Other changes in the past year? Well, we've been hurt by the slowing economy, too. We have less space to display business news than we did a year ago, and we have a few staff vacancies that we haven't filled because of economic conditions. These aren't earthshaking developments, but they do affect how we gather the news and how we display it.

Otherwise, our jobs are much as they were a year ago. The business news department is responsible for gathering and editing the content of The Sun's daily and Sunday Business sections, the Sunday Real Estate section and Maryland Business Weekly, or MBW, our Monday section that will celebrate its second birthday this March. We also produce the Maryland Business Almanac, a 500-page book about Maryland commerce and companies.

Central to most of these tasks is the computerized text-editing system we use to produce the newspaper, which includes the video display terminal on which this column was written, and which can be linked by telephone to personal computers that are in many of our bureaus as well as in the homes of a growing number of writers and editors. All these workstations can be used to write stories, edit them and send electronic mail zinging around our editing system.

(Our use of Apple Macintosh computers to prepare artwork and tabular material has also grown and will likely expand further to handle page design and layout work as well.)

All of our stories either originate in the text-editing system or flow into it, including the numerous stories from wire services to which The Sun subscribes.

After I finish writing this column, I will electronically shift it from my own working space in the system to a more widely accessible "basket," as we call it, where an assistant business editor will read it to see if it makes sense.

From this "basket," the column will then zip to our copy desk, where a copy editor will read it. Questions of fact, points of grammatical style and spelling issues will be addressed and, I hope, resolved. The copy editor will then write a headline for the column, using the headline-type specifications and column width that have been indicated on the layout sheet -- a roughly 8 1/2 -by-11-inch piece of paper that is prepared on the business desk for every page in our sections that contains news.

The chief of the business copy desk will look at the column as well before it is sent electronically to the newspaper's typesetting machine in our composing room. There, it is set into type on glossy, white paper and transferred by a printer to a "board," or sturdy piece of very thick paper, which is the actual size of a news page and which should contain the news and ad content indicated on the layout sheets.

These pages are then turned into printing plates, the presses start to roll and, after the efforts of another thousand people or so, you get a newspaper delivered to your home, nearby newsstand or newspaper rack box.

On the business-news staff, the work described above is done by about three dozen people. Newsrooms have a relatively simple job structure, and our department's staffers occupy essentially four positions -- editorial assistants, reporters, editors and copy editors.

Editorial assistants are the lucky devils who get to answer some of the calls you place to our beleaguered phone system. They also type into our text-editing system a lot of the short stories and lists of information you see in the paper. Our editorial assistants are Tony Waytekunas and Audrey Haar, plus Chau Lam in our New York bureau.

Here are the reporters on the staff, their phone numbers and their areas of specialization, or "beats," as we call them. Despite having beats, writers pitch in from time to time on other stories or special projects. And some reporters are on "general assignment" status; they are purposely not assigned to a beat but report on whatever business news needs to be covered.

Graeme Browning, 332-6935, law and business services.

Leslie Cauley, 332-6672, technology, telecommunications, computers.

Kim Clark, 332-6400, manufacturing, basic industry, utilities.

David Conn, 332-6954, based in Annapolis, covers economic development and business issues involving state government and the Maryland General Assembly.

Tom Easton, 212-586-7848, New York financial bureau chief, covers Wall Street, finance and general New York business topics. The bureau recently moved; its new mailing address is 111 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019.

Peter Frank, 332-6630, banking and insurance.

John H. Gormley Jr., 332-6587, maritime, transportation.

Edward Gunts, 332-6623, real estate development, architecture.

Cindy Harper-Evans, 332-6671, retailing and advertising.

Maria Mallory, 332-6148, general assignment.

Ellen James Martin, 332-6153, real estate columnist and general assignment for Maryland Business Weekly.

Timothy Mullaney, 332-6063, real estate development and the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

David Rosenthal, 332-6146, general assignment for Maryland Business Weekly.

L Ted Shelsby, 332-6155, defense industry, agriculture, autos.

Blair S. Walker, 332-6196, general assignment for Maryland Business Weekly.

Four assistant business editors handle the various sections and tasks needed to produce them:

Michael P. Pollick (332-6586), day editor. Mr. Pollick is in charge of coverage for daily and Sunday Business sections, including story assignments to the business staff, coordination of coverage with other news desks and preparation of photographic and artwork assignments with photography and art departments.

Jeannette Belliveau (332-6154), night editor. Ms. Belliveau works with the day editor to execute daily and Sunday Business section plans; handles staff and wire-service stories and prepares them for electronic transmittal to the copy desk for further editing, headline writing and preparation for typesetting. She also selects photographs and artwork for publication, relying in part on the assignments made earlier by other editors and reporters. She works with a layout editor to determine the design and appearance of Business section pages.

Michael T. Dresser (332-6585) is in charge of Maryland Business Weekly. Mr. Dresser works with other staff members to assign and prepare stories and features for MBW, coordinates photographic and artwork assignments with the photography and art departments, reviews MBW coverage requests, determines where the stories and features will appear in each week's section and prepares material for electronic transmittal to the copy desk for further editing, headline writing and preparation for typesetting.

Clay Perry (332-6145) is in charge of the Sunday Real Estate section and MBW Reports, a series of special reports on various industries and business subjects that appears inside MBW. Mr. Perry works with other staff members to assign and prepare stories and features for the Real Estate section and MBW Reports, coordinates photographic and artwork assignments with photography and art departments, works with free-lance writers on story assignments, determines where the stories and features will appear in both sections and prepares material for electronic transmittal to the copy desk for further editing, headline writing and preparation for typesetting.

Also, Claudette Arons (332-6439) is editor of the Maryland Business Almanac. Ms. Arons is responsible for gathering information, processing and publishing this 500-page guide to Maryland business, which includes a 200-page survey of publicly traded and privately owned businesses, plus 20-page to 60-page chapters on demographics, government, amenities, education, health services, business services, economics and employment, and production and trade.

Ms. Arons also helps gather and process extensive lists of information that appear in MBW Reports and other Business sections.

Judy Yao, a copy editor, lays out most of the pages that appear in our sections, working with the various editors to determine how and where they want stories displayed, what our artwork choices are and the like. Ms. Yao's layout sheets are then taken to the copy desk, where, as noted above, they provide copy editors with information about how much space each story can occupy, what its headline size should be and other special typography needs.

Mike Levene (332-6006) is head of the business copy desk, and five other copy editors work extensively on business-desk content: David Allerhand, Jerry Bayne, Ted Chan, Elisabeth Hoffman, Kasey Jones and Karen Warmkessel.

Although columnists like to think they have the last word on matters, it's actually the copy desk folks who have that honor, and we don't liwn ods g fkam dnt. Pan glth's all I have to trf on this matter.

Sincerely,

Philip Moeller (332-6213)

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