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Newspaper 101: Out of the mouths of babes come the best questions and comments

That was the case a couple of weeks ago when about 2,000 Westside fifth graders visited the Hood River News (there really weren’t 2,000, it just seemed that way). They toured our State Street printing plant and then peppered me with questions. The students provided more feedback once back at school, by writing more questions and comments which they then forwarded on to me.

Gunnar wanted to know: “How can you and the people keep up with all those machines?” He was talking about the inserting machines, which insert grocery and other printed material into the newspaper. Gunnar didn’t witness it, but sometimes “the people” don’t keep up. That’s what STOP buttons are for.

Edith asked: “How many newspapers do you make per day?” That depends on the day. Tuesdays and Fridays we make two newspapers - The Dalles Chronicle gets printed between about 11 a.m. and noon; the Hood River News between 1 and 2 p.m. Mid-week, we print the White Salmon Enterprise and the Goldendale Sentinel.

Maddie questioned: “How old is the Hood River News? Who invented it and why?” The News was started in 1905, seemingly about the same year as my wife’s car (which I’ve been driving of late). The News was founded by E.R. Bradley, who moved here from Nebraska. But the News wasn’t the first newspaper in the valley; then-postmaster George T. Prather founded the weekly Glacier way back in 1889.

One of Lexie’s comments was appreciated by news editor Kirby Neumann-Rea. “I didn’t know that (editor’s) job was so hard.” (It should be noted that Kirby hasn’t been in the office the past three days.) But, in general, Lexie is correct. The editor makes countless daily decisions, most of which are scrutinized by thousands of readers. And that’s a good thing. Our readers help keep us on our toes; part of their job is to make sure we’re doing our job.

Katie enjoyed the decision-making banter involved in making those news decisions. “I thought the most interesting thing was (deciding) what should and what should not” go into the newspaper. That continues to be one of the most talked about aspects of newspapering, both among staff as well as our readers. Some days those decisions are easier than others.

Emma added: “One thing I learned with you is how to use your good judgment to decide what gets into the Hood River News.” We try, oh girl, do we try.

That said, as Terra Rose pointed out: “I learned that whatever the editor posts he/she always gets at least one complaint.”

Cole said he learned that newspapers are not hand folded. Well Cole, most of the time that’s true. We do have to hand-fold them, when “all those machines” break down or the power goes out.

Paige picked up on the automation theme, as well. “It was a lot faster than doing it by hand and having to put stamps (on).”

You know Paige, you are correct. We found that out firsthand on Tuesday this week, when we had a special sticky coupon to apply by hand to the front of the paper. There were various three-, four-, and five-person assembly lines formed throughout the building. For 30 minutes, hands more suited to bookkeeping or photography or newswriting, slapped more than 5,000 stickers onto the front of the News.

Truth be told, Paige, those are the fun days, when all hands are on deck, so to speak, working toward a singular, simple goal: providing our readers with news.

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Joe Petshow is publisher of the Hood River News. He enjoys giving tours of the newspaper.

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