How to Start a Publication Part 2

How to Track the Life of a Story

Now that you have seen how Microsoft Word could save you time as you lay out pages, How to Start a Publication Part 1, it is time to discuss an Editorial Workflow. Every story in your publication has a life cycle. The stories are written, they are edited, then laid out inside Quark. Some fit, some don’t, they are then considered placed or already run, then some stories may go to your website, and the final resting place for your stories may be in an archive folder. I’d like to take you on a journey though the life of a story.

Most big database systems you could buy, such as NewsEditPro and Quark Publishing System, let you change the status of a story as you check a story in and out of the system. They also save a version of the story as you check it in. Saving versions lets you go back to each revision to find out who misspelled someone’s name. I’ve seen plenty of publications use a filing system like the one I’m about to describe – without buying a database system.

First of all, have all of your writers, whether they are in the building or not, submit their stories as Microsoft Word documents.

Next, make a folder structure to store the stories as they make their journey. I recommend making five folders: Ready to Edit, Edited, Placed, Websend, and Archive. You could also number them to make it easier to remember which folder comes next .

As the stories are received, name them something logical so that when they end up in the Archive folder, they are easy to find. Then place them into the Ready to Edit folder.

Now the Copy Editor, who is waiting to edit stories, will open a story and begin to edit. However, to track who has done what in the story, I recommend telling the Copy Editor to turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Word. Better yet, turn this function on in the Microsoft Word template you give to your writers.

Once the story is edited, the Copy Editor will close the document and save it. Then they will manually move the document into the Edited folder.

The layout artist who has been waiting patiently for stories will be watching this folder to see what stories are ready to be laid out. (In Mac OS X, you could attach a Folder Action to that folder so that it alerts you when a new item is added.)

The question now arises, “How does the layout artist know which section to place the story into?” Here are some ideas: within the Edited folder you could create subfolders based on the sections of your publication, ie: Front Page, Editorial, Inside Pages, etc… Or you could include the section in the story’s filename. I like my first idea better, because filenames are often already too long.

Then the layout artist imports the Word document into QuarkXPress. If templates were made in Word and styles were applied, you could use the Microsoft Word workflow I outlined I my previous story. If not, then artist applies styles as needed, places images, applies runaround and all the rest of the fun stuff that comes with page layout.

But alas! The copy does not fit! What to do! Well, if you used the Microsoft Word template idea, you’re in luck. If the story is too short, you can fill the rest of the box with Jabberwocky (Utilities> Jabber). Jabberwocky fills the remaining space in the box with text, so that you and the Copy Editor have a rough idea how much more copy is needed. Then select the Jabbered text, and choose Utilities> Check Spelling> Selection and get the word count. You can now have the Copy Editor open the story, and add an approximate number of words. You can see a word count right at the bottom of the Microsoft Word window. If the opposite is the case and words need to be cut, insert your type cursor at the last word that fits in the text box, then hold Shift and Alt (Macintosh: Shift-Command) and hit the Down Arrow on your keyboard to select all the text from your cursor to the end of the story. (Tip: this is also a really easy way to select text that needs to jump from one QuarkXPress document to another.) Then get your text count with Utilities> Check Spelling> Selection and have the copy editor take away that many words.

The great part is that since the styles are applied in Word, after the copy fit is done the text can then just be flowed into the text box again and it comes in already styled and copyfit! If it is a few words off you can adjust your tracking a small amount to get it to fit. I definitely would not go overboard with the tracking adjustment, because it will make your pages look really amateur.

Now that the story is back and copyfit, the layout artist should move the story from the Edited folder to the Placed folder so that they don’t use the story twice on the page. (Which, by the way, I have done before, and more than once.) This is a very important step, because the Placed folder tells you what has already run, while the Edited folder tells you what stories remain to be used in either this issue or the next issue.

If you have someone building Web pages for your publication, you may consider placing the stories in a Websend folder so that the webmaster knows that the stories have run. You would take all the stories from the Placed folder and manually move the stories into the Websend folder. Supplying just the stories to the webmaster in Microsoft Word format might seem a bit simple, but if the word document has the headline, subhead story and captions for the images used within it, it could be easier in some cases for the webmaster to get the text from the Word document, rather than copying and pasting from a Quark document. (But, in case you didn’t know it, Quark has much more powerful tools for reusing content for the Web. I am just proposing a simple solution.)

Then the last step, after all the stories have been posted to the website, is to move all the Word documents into the Archive folder. You may want to put a run date at the end of each story’s filename at this point to make searching these documents a little bit easier.

And there you have it, from beginning to end, the life of a story and how to manage it along the way. And don’t feel bad for the story as it lies in limbo inside the Archive folder. It may be reincarnated later when parts of it are used for future stories. In my next entry: Frankenstory returns!