The majority of newspapers have "morning editions." They are published early in the morning, usually between 1 and 4 a.m., and are distributed within three hours or so. Some papers are "evening editions," meaning they are published early in the afternoon and delivered by 6 p.m. Morning and evening papers were once available in most major cities. Today, only large cities with populations over 500,000 offer both types of paper.
Newspapers are printed at newspaper offices on large machines called "presses." These presses can print pages that are four inches by six inches, but most newspapers use press runs that are half as long or shorter. For example, a daily newspaper might be set up to print eight sections of four inches by six inches each. Those would be enough to fill two boxes on any delivery truck.
When a newspaper editor decides which news stories will go in their edition, they first decide which departments will write these stories. For example, if there is a staff writer for arts and entertainment, she might be given the task of writing about new movies coming out at the local theater. When the editor has written all the stories he wants to include in the paper, he sends it to a pressman for printing.
In small towns where everyone knows everything about everyone else, the front page of the newspaper often includes an article entitled "The Scoop," which is typically written by a staff reporter who finds some interesting factoids after talking to people around town.
The press hours of morning daily were typically after midnight, giving time for late-breaking items and coverage of late athletic events to make the morning issue. Afternoon dailies are often printed in the mid-to-late morning hours, allowing publications to reach newsstands by lunch and home-delivery subscribers before they go home from work. Many newspapers include an evening edition that is printed later in the day than their afternoon counterpart.
The press time for the morning paper is when the newspaper people start working on it - before that there's no way to know what's going to end up in it. The editor decides what goes in and what doesn't. Sometimes they get inspiration from things that happen after hours: idea generators (who come up with some of the most interesting stuff), anonymous sources (which we'll talk about in a bit), etc. Sometimes they just guess - or copy something from another paper - and hope for the best.
In addition to deciding what goes in the paper, editors also decide which stories will get front page coverage. Usually this involves choosing one story that really catches their eye, but it can also be as simple as putting the most recent news first. Either way, they're taking advantage of the opportunity that presents itself now rather than later. Later on, if something new comes up and it looks like it might make for a good story, then they'll consider adding it to the back page or editing page.
The paper will be delivered by 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and 8:00 a.m. on Sundays in most regions. There are two delivery zones serviced by different carriers: one from Minneapolis/St. Paul to the suburbs, the other from the suburbs to smaller towns farther away.
In some regions, including the Twin Cities, the paper is also delivered late afternoon or early evening on certain days of the week. The carrier visits neighborhoods in which there are no postal boxes providing additional home delivery service. These carriers do not leave tickets under doors or use any other form of direct marketing; they simply visit all listed addresses and leave papers behind for those who want them.
Subscribers can choose whether or not to accept additional daily deliveries of the paper. If you order these extras (some carriers will only deliver to certain types of addresses), they will be left at the curb outside your house on the morning delivery day. You must be present to accept these papers but they do not go through your front door or into your mailbox; they are left on the street next to your house.
If you aren't around when the carrier comes by, you can call and have someone pick up your subscription at no charge.