Dechipering the Post’s Code

For all four of you out there who still subscribe to the print edition of the Washington Post, John Kelly today explains what all those little numbers at the top of the front page above that gray bar mean:

There are all sorts of numbers and letters up there. A cabalist could spend weeks trying to discern their meaning. Or he could just read this column.

Starting on the left, there’s the year (we’re in our 128th) and the number (counting from Dec. 6, which is when we printed our first issue, in 1877). Then there’s either an R, an S, an M1 or an M2.

R stands for Regional, the edition that we start printing around 11:15 p.m. It’s delivered to about 70,000 people in counties outside the Washington region. S stands for Suburban. Printing starts about 12:15 a.m. It’s our biggest edition, going to roughly 450,000 readers in the burbs and parts of the District. Then there are two Metro editions: M1 and M2.

“M1 is only an occasional edition, when we have late-breaking sports or news that didn’t happen in time to make it in the Suburban but we want to get in fast,” said Vince Bzdek , a deputy assistant managing editor.

M2 is the final edition, printed about 2 a.m. Its 150,000 copies go to the District, and most are sold in street boxes.

Just as the ads are zoned, so are the articles, with some stories given more or less prominence depending on where that paper is delivered. The MD, VA or DC to the right of the edition info indicates the editorial zone. (On Saturdays and Mondays, the paper is zoned in two ways: Virginia [VA] or DC/MD, although the editorial content is nearly always the same.)

To the right of the date is something starting with either M or V. That indicates where that paper was printed: in College Park or Springfield. A number tells us which of the four presses at each location printed the paper: i.e., M2, V4.

Sometimes at the top of a page you’ll see a K. That means there was a mistake on an earlier version of the page and it had to be “killed,” our wonderfully violent word for correcting the error.