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Reviewing the yearly year-in-review issue

When I was in the community newspaper business, this was, at the same time, the best and worst week of the year.

It’s the last week of 2023, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. A lot of people are on holidays. In some of the smaller places I worked, some of the stores even closed for the week so the owners could get some needed time off.

Newspapers, however, usually kept going, even the weekly community ones. If Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on a publication date, the bosses usually arranged for an early press time and the papers went out on December 24 and 31.

The salespeople at the paper generally made sure they had all their ads sold and done up by the week before Christmas so they and the production people could have some time off as well.

Front office? A lot of times the paper would be open shorter hours between Christmas and New Year’s, mainly because it is a slow time of the year for newspapers. The Christmas and, more recently, Boxing Day sales rush is over, so there are usually fewer ads to put in, which means smaller papers.

As for the reporters, well, things there tended to vary. A lot of the smaller papers I worked at went with a year-end review format for the paper between Christmas and New Year’s, which meant going back over the papers from the previous years and picking out the top stories.

Some papers did a Top 10 stories of the year, where each of the stories got a bit more prominence. Others did a month-by-month format, which meant a paragraph or two at most for each story, but you could hit more of the ‘big’ stories from each month.

I remember one year, I was working at a paper which had a staff of four reporters. In about September, we sat down in an editorial meeting and decided each reporter would do three months of the year, aiming for about the same length of story for each month.

I had April through June, and by the middle of October, I was basically done. As November wore down, the editor asked how people were doing on the year-end review. Nobody else had started theirs.

Long story short, I ended up doing the whole year-end review that year. I didn’t mind because first, I could make sure the monthly reviews were all close to the same length, and second, all of them were written in the same sort of style, which I think was better for the reader.

I sometimes miss the days of going back over all the back issues for the year and making up a list of stories for each month.

Then I remember how much work it ended up being, and I don’t miss it at all.

Happy New Year to all!

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