How the New York Times makes it from presses to newsstand
Even though many of us get our news fix online or on tablet devices these days, there is a still a fascination with an old-fashioned press and the smell of newsprint.
The printing plant for the New York Times is over 4645.152 m², and is manned by around 350 employees who produce the paper every night.
Part of the romance of mechanics over electronics, however, is that they go wrong. They creak, and break down, and need human input. And in the case of a major newspaper, that means supervisors as well as machinists to keep an eye on production. In the case of the New York Times, the plant is so large, that needs adult-sized tricycles, or even golf carts to enable them to get around quickly. In an average night, the plant will print around 300,000 copies of the paper (and twice that every weekend), which have to be ready for distribution to news vendors by 3.30am – if you consider that each trailer truck holds around 50,000 copies, you can see what an extraordinary feat it is for papers to reach their distribution area seamlessly every day.
News doesn’t stand still at midnight, however, and by the time the print version hits the shops, it’s already out of date.
This is where print and digital news work hand in hand to update news stories developing in other time zones – the internet and distribution of news through social media has made us a 24 hour society, where something is always ‘breaking news’ somewhere.
Paper news still makes the most money, however, and needs a steady supply of just that – paper.
The New York Times is supplied by four different mills, three in Canada (two in Quebec, one in Ontario), and a further mill in Tennessee.
The paper rolls themselves resemble steamrollers, and weigh 997,90 kg each, and need 18-wheel trucks to deliver them to a storage unit in the Bronx. As needed, they’re then transported to the printing press in Queens, where the rolls of paper are fed through ceiling slits onto the seven presses that could run for up to eleven hours to produce the newspaper.
The New York Times uses four-colour printing, and as the plates can change from edition to edition, up to 3000 plates might be needed to print a standard 50-page newspaper. And everything has to be perfect, too – if a check shows that a plate is even almost imperceptibly out of alignment, it’s not a ‘good copy’, and thousands can end up in the recycling bin before an edition is fit for distribution.
The folding machine – one of just three in the world – means that the New York Times is untouched by human hands at any stage from press to newsstand.