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11. The “flatplan”

The flatplan is some kind of pedagogical toy. It’s a visual representation, as a comic, on paper, on a screen, or shown as a movie, of what the newspaper will contain once finished. It’s an overview that shows how the content will be divided and organized from the front page to the last page. 

Basic rules

All the pages of a newspaper don’t have the same visual impact.

The front (recto) catches your eyes naturally, whereas you have to turn the page to see the back (verso).

Texts put in odd-numbered pages are more noticed than texts put on even-numbered pages.

The front page, but also page 3, 5 and 7 are the most attention grabbing. These are the “hot” pages, the one exclusively dedicated to breaking news.

On the contrary, even-numbered pages, such as page 2, 4, 6 or 8 are used for articles continuations and secondary articles. They make up the “cold” pages, the one reserved for less urgent stories.

There are two other attention-grabbing placements: the centerfold and the last page. The centerfold is the best place to highlight long stories. It’s better kept for lengthy reports, investigations, portraits, or long Q&As.
The last page, oftentimes the last to be put to bed, traditionally holds last minute news. It’s also a prime choice space to highlight editorials and cartoons.

“Traffic” regulation

The difference between “hot” and “cold” page is not just a way to cover the news according to its “temperature”. It also helps spread out copy writing over the day to avoid blocking when putting the articles to bed. If the day planner is respected and the budgets carefully prepared, many stories can be written in advance and put in the flatplan hours before going to print. For example, centerfold stories “magazine” stories or secondary stories. Spread out production guarantees quality content.

A basic model

A typical flatplan for a small local daily newspaper stands on 12 pages. This page numbering can be transposed and multiplied as much as you want: 24 pages for a big local paper, 36 for a regional paper, 48 for a national newspaper. All flatplans must be segmented according to the news and the organizational system. There are as many “hot” pages as “cold” ones, to facilitate news coverage.

Small local daily newspaper

  • Front page: main story w/headline (“My war against Caesar”), first reading level (lead, picture, cartoon).
  • Page 2: cold page, reader’s mail or useful info
  • Page 3: continuation of the cover story, with another headline: “How I beat the great Caesar” And a subhead: “Veteran Vercingetorix explains how the Bretons can win this battle» (hot page).
  • Page 4: Life in the boroughs (cold page)
  • Page 5: Life in the boroughs (hot page)
  • Pages 6-7, centerfold: report, local life investigation (cold page)
  • Page 8: Economics (cold page)
  • Page 9: Cultural life (cold page)
  • Page 10: Sports (hot page)
  • Page 11: Human-interest stories (hot page)
  • Page 12: Daily portrait (cold page), short news item, last minute news

***

Flatplan transposed to a national daily newspaper

  • Front page: main stories
  • Page 2: human-interest stories
  • Page 3: continuation of the front page
  • Pages 4, 5, 6: foreign affairs (one cold page) 
  • Pages 7, 8, 9: home affairs (including one cold page)
  • Pages 10, 11: society (one cold page)
  • Pages 12, 13: centerfold.
  • Pages 14,15: economy 
  • Pages 16, 17: cultural life (one cold page)
  • Pages 18, 19: sports (one cold page)
  • Pages 20, 21, 22: useful info (two cold pages)
  • Page 23: TV & radio listings, games (cold page)
  • Page 24: last-minute news

The “ushers”

Adjusting the flatplan to the news is made more easy thanks to “the ushers”. For each section, in turns, they’re the first journalists that come into the office. Their mission: organizing labor division among their team. They sort out wire stories, websites news, press releases and correspondences. This helps everybody win some time and improves the flatplan.