Volunteering with The Suffield Observer

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I enjoy volunteering with The Suffield Observer. One of my favorite things each month is helping with final proof reading.

Five or six experienced proofers congregate in the Observer office at 8:30 a.m. one morning a month to read and mark-up every page of the paper. These are people who know and love Suffield and also love the English language. In addition to correcting grammar and spelling, they read for clarity. There are discussions about the correct use of an uncommon word or the meaning of a convoluted sentence. They even catch mistakes in the spelling of names since they know everyone in town.

The Observer is a collaborative adventure. Early in the paper’s history someone did an incredible job of organizing the work into discrete tasks that can be handled independently, leaving each finished task exactly where the next step can be started.

  • An editorial board meets monthly to discuss what is coming up in town and to figure out who can write about it.
  • There are dozens of reporters and columnists who do the writing.
  • Downloaders check email every day and save articles and pictures that have been submitted in the correct folders.
  • Preppers use word processing to tweak articles for a few simple rules of style and run simple macros to highlight the title and convert the text into narrow columns so that the length of the article in column inches can be measured.
  • The volunteer Editor of the Month reads articles for clarity and may ask authors to make a few changes.
  • Editors lay out the paper, grouping articles with similar topics: Town, Schools, Library and Scouts, and Organizations. The editors figure out exactly how to lay the articles and pictures out for easy reading. They say it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
  • InDesigners “paste” articles and pictures into an electronic version of the paper, making them fit into the layout that the editors created. A couple of the InDesigners also go through the paper at the very end of the process to fix layout issues and make the paper easier to read.
  • Proofers come in on the last day to catch anything that the others missed.

There are 74 regular volunteers putting the paper together each month, and that’s not counting all the members of the community who submit articles or photos. You can join them! Write about something interesting, or email inbox@thesuffieldobserver.com if you want to talk about joining the monthly production team!

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