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Hot off the press: Follow an intern’s journey

The interns saw the various processes newspapers undergo before dispatch.

Have you ever wondered how newspapers are made, how the layout is designed, or who is responsible for distribution?

The 2024 Caxton Media interns had a one-of-a-kind experience, satisfying all their curiosities.

Buhle Matsoele, an intern at The African Reporter, sister newspaper of the Brakpan Herald, was among the interns invited to a factory tour at the Industria printing operations to see the manufacturing of newspapers and the processes they go through before distribution.

The tour was fascinating and insightful. Training manager Riaan Kruger was the tour guide, introducing the interns to the various machines.

Buhle Matsoele, an African Reporter intern, says the tour was fascinating.

The tour began at the pre-press department. Kruger told the interns every newspaper must go through the “gatekeeper”, who ensures there are no errors.

“The paper will not leave the factory unless it has the gatekeeper’s stamp of approval. He must ensure the layout colours are correct,” Kruger said.

The interns learnt that the first step is to make the plates. These have an aluminium base for all the colours needed. The next step is placing the image on the plate.

The image is hardened on the plate. Every plate has image areas and non-image areas. The image areas draw in the ink, while the non-image areas push away the ink.

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The images are transferred to a rubber blanket in reverse writing using an automated punch-and-bend machine.

This way, when it goes on the paper, it is readable. During the tour, Kruger told the interns about the importance of newspapers having advertisements.

“Your story can be as beautiful as ever, but a newspaper’s value comes from advertising,” he said.

Dennis Panaino led the rest of the tour. He spoke about the process called scumming, where the water and ink levels are balanced.

“Mathematics and science play a part in these processes. For example, the viscosity of the ink will be different depending on the newspaper, and the heat in the factory will determine how fast the ink runs,” Panaino explained.

The last part of the tour was in the mail room, which has a stacking area where several employees stack the newspapers in order before they are ready for distribution. Panaino reiterated the importance of meeting deadlines in the newsroom.

“It’s important for the journalists to submit stories on time. Any delay from the newsroom could affect the newspaper’s distribution,” he said.

The interns received certificates of attendance, coffee, tea, and biscuits, and concluded the day with conversations about what they had learnt during the tour.

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