People usually read newspapers to get information about current events, things that are happening at the present time or have just occurred. When a good news story breaks, reporters are immediately sent out to gather as much information about the situation as possible and photographers take pictures that add visual information. When they return to the newspaper office, the reporters type their story into a computer, and camera film is developed into photos in a darkroom. The photographs are put into the computer with a device called a scanner. Increasing numbers of photographers use digital cameras, which means their photos do not have to be first developed on paper. They are automatically in digital, or computer-ready, format and can be transmitted over phone lines or via satellites just like e-mail or other electronic files. Once the photos are in digital format, the printed story and the pictures that illustrate it are arranged together. The story may take up part of a newspaper page or may extend for a few pages. Designers arrange all the stories and photos that make up a newspaper into visually appealing, easy-to-read pages on the computer screen. They are then printed out on pieces of clear film. Next, the film print of each newspaper page is laid on a light-sensitive metal plate. When it is exposed to a flash of bright light, shadows of the film’s letters and pictures are left on the plate. The shadows are permanently etched or marked into the plate when it is soaked in acid, which eats some of the metal away. What is left is a perfect copy of the film print of the newspaper page, with its words and pictures appearing as grooves in the metal.
The newspaper page is now ready to be printed on paper. The metal plate is first wrapped around a roller on a motor-driven printing press and coated with ink. After being wiped clean, ink still stays in the grooves. When paper (in big rolls) is passed under the roller, it is pressed into the grooves, and perfectly printed pages appear. This process is repeated for each newspaper page. As you can imagine, printing plants are enormous, with some presses standing three stories tall. These expensive machines (costing tens of millions of dollars) can print and sort up to 70,000 copies of a newspaper per hour. Once the press is done printing and sorting, the newspapers are bundled for delivery the next day to homes and newsstands.