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How Newspapers are Printed

Newspaper production has changed a lot over the years. While writers and editors nowadays can do their writing, design and layout on a computer screen, when it comes to actually publishing the paper, there's no avoiding a printing press. These massive, powerful and loud machines are what drives newspaper printing, allowing publishers to print hundreds of thousands or even millions of newspapers every day—but it all starts with an image.

The Printed Image

All of the text, art and photography that is going to be printed on a page constitutes an "image." The image is sent to printing, where it is transferred onto a special film and checked for quality. The film goes through a series of machines that optimize, clean, and harden it, turning it into a flexible sheet not unlike a stamp. This is when it goes into the printing press.

Newspaper Printing Presses

Unlike sheet-fed printing presses that print on large sheets, web-fed presses are typically used for newspaper production. This type of press feeds newsprint into the machine on a giant spool, kind of like unraveling an enormous roll of bathroom tissue. Because the machine moves so fast, the spools have to be extremely large, or else you would have to constantly change them—a printing press can make upwards of 40,000 newspapers an hour. A roll of newsprint, then, weighs between 900 and 1,200 lbs., and unrolls to about 7 miles long.

This is printing on a massive scale, and such being the case, a printing press—sheet-fed or web-fed—is an enormous piece of equipment. These things are a lot bigger than the printer in your office. A printing press generally comes in pieces and is assembled on the floor, because they are so large and so heavy—they can weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds. That's why newspapers and other professional printers are always on the ground floor—they need an incredible amount of support to stay stabilized.