How the Spartana is Made: From Pub Room to Printing Press

Madeline Phuong, Junior Editor

A knock on the door. Moments later, a glossy pile of magazines floats into the room, bringing with it the heady scent of ink. Whether placed on a discreet corner desk or in the center of the room, they beckon you to open them. If you are reading this, congratulations. You have answered that call. From its creation in the secluded publications room (room 622, for those feeling adventurous) to its sometimes alarmingly rapid journey to the recycling bin, Spartana is occasionally read. The appearance of this monthly publication may seem infrequent, but its arrival is a sure sign of a new month. Behind its glossy exterior is the lengthy, weeks-long process that goes into its making.

#1: Brainstorm
A brainstorming session—filled with story ideas centered around seasonal events and celebrations—starts off every issue. School activities and student accomplishments are also a focus for articles. Many staff members find story inspiration from their everyday lives, choosing to cover topics ranging from mood rings to YA tropes. Staffers can collaborate on articles as well. With the editor-in-chief and junior editors taking the lead, all staff members contribute and discuss ideas.
It is during this time when the month’s issue first begins to take form. Often, the feature story and the theme of the issue become apparent, which can help determine the design of the cover and table of contents later on.

#2: Article
There are four article categories: “Life,” “News,” “Feature” and “Opinion.” Occasionally, a seasonal category is added to the list, such as with the “Halloween” tag in this year’s October issue. For most of these, writers interview three students, teachers or professionals for their article. Writers usually choose interviewees not included in an article prior in the year. In addition, staff members must research to prepare for their story. This process involves anything from historical research to rewatching children’s television shows.

#3: Edits
The editors review all articles and provide the writers suggestions to stay in journalistic Associated Press style, which excludes the contentious Oxford comma (used before the “and,” “or” or “nor” in a list of items). After feedback, writers make simple grammatical adjustments, strengthen their argument or look for another interview to improve their article.

#4: Spread Design
Staffers make the magazine-format layout of their article in Adobe program InDesign, a publishing software. Designers have creative liberty in making their spread specific to their article. Elements such as color scheme, title font, background and the occasional goat graphic must be taken into account. The editors encourage staff members to take their own photographs and make their own graphics.
This process is much different from Spartana’s beginnings, when it took the format of a printed, black-and-white newspaper. Junior editor Ganga Subramanian (11) noted that “a lot of people join Newspaper because they really want to write but don’t realize there is a design aspect to it.” However, the visual aspect of the publication is just as crucial as the writing. Why do you choose to read some articles and not others?

#5: Edits
In their second round of edits, the editors provide feedback on the spread designs of each article, noting details such as the alignment of the tags (“Life,” “News,” “Feature” and “Opinion”) and forgotten citations of photo credits. It is a thrilling time. The Spartana staff stays after for a work night to finalize their spread before sending it in to Fort Wayne Printing Graphics Manager Mary Carney for the proof.

#6: Proof and More Edits
At 909 Production Road, Spartana comes to life as an Epson Stylus Pro9900 color proof. The proof, much like the magazines, is run as a sheet wide spread of eight pages. The pages are lined up and cut apart on an industrial light table. On these sheets, a line of pure cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) runs down the middle to measure and ensure the correct coloring. Once complete, Carney delivers the finished proof to Homestead High School, where the editors take it back to the publications room for a final round of edits.
The publication staff gets a firsthand look at what will turn into the coming month’s issue of Spartana. A sense of excitement and the smell of soy-based ink—which is both environmentally-friendly and fitting for a northeast Indiana printing company—fill the air.
“I really do like the ink of the proof and how it smells, in the same way that I like chlorine and gasoline,” Subramanian said.

#7: Printing
After receiving the finished spreads, those at Fort Wayne Printing ready materials for the Heidelberg 40”SM102-4 press. A plate processor, maker and cleanout unit laser burn the images onto and prepare metal plates for the printing process. Every sheet wide spread uses four metal plates, one for each CMYK ink color. This issue used 20 metal plates. These plates are loaded into the press—with four units for the four CMYK colors—along with paper and ink. Having run through the Heidelberg, the sheets dry before being cut, folded and bound in Omega 2 Fold/Stitch/Trim and cutter machines. Finally, the magazines are packaged and shipped out.
A staff of less than 15 oversees this whole process at Fort Wayne Printing, all the while completing other printing jobs that can use up to a couple hundred thousand sheets of paper daily. Once the job is done, the company recycles the metal plates, paper and ink. Carney estimates that one issue of Spartana takes about eight to ten hours to produce, from proof to press.

#8: Distribution
On the long-awaited day of distribution, staffers transfer the cart of packaged issues—weighing tens of pounds and costing thousands of dollars—from the transportation area to the publications room. There, the staff members split up to deliver the month’s issue of Spartana by area of the school, using 5th period rosters to determine class size. They use carts, rolling chairs or any other wheeled contraption to make deliveries. It is on this day that staffers hand Spartanas out to faces of delight and indifference alike. Issues are also available in the front of the cafeteria, which the 99 followers of the Spartana Instagram account (@spartana_news) are notified of.
Of the publication’s reception, editor-in-chief Claire Elliott (12) said, “In a way, we are often scorned by the student body. I myself used to be one of those scorners, if that is a word, but that also makes us more of a community, I think. We are all in here and have fun and have our creative outlet and eat baked goods. To me, that is a sort of bliss.”

#9: Website Publication
Following printing and distribution, the staff members publish their stories on the Spartana website (www.hhsspartana.com), supervised by Website Manager Thomas Hill (11). With this last step, each month’s issue is digitally immortalized.
“We put in a lot of effort to the Spartana website to make it user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, yet we see a disturbing lack of student engagement on the website to support our hard work,” Hill said.

#10: Begin the process again!