WHEN Leo Weinthal brought out the first edition of the Pretoria News on June 13, 1898, it was a mix of advertising and editorial - with advertising clearly occupying pride of place, and taking up the entire front page.

But that did not mean editorial was merely there to fill up the spaces between adverts - Weinthal and successive editors had sharp pens and tough words for those who crossed them.

However, one of the main differences between adverts and editorial was in layout and design with advertising providing attractive bold displays - often including photographs and other forms of artwork while editorial was restricted to dull, demure double column lead stories surrounded by single-column reports rarely with photographs.

The first real editorial layout changes came in the mid-1920s, following the appointment of James Grey, of The Times parliamentary staff as editor, who arrived “to a new building, new machines” and was able to implement the latest Fleet Street techniques.

The changes were immediately noticeable: strap headlines across news pages, the use of pictures and a bolder layout dropping the number of columns from eight per page to four. It also saw the introduction of full page adverts.

Typographically, the next decade was a mishmash of styles, some as bad as the worst early pages produced, others almost pleasing to the eye.

It also set the parameters: to cram in the news with no care to layout, design or appeal and to start the ongoing war over the name on the masthead. Should it be The Pretoria News or simply Pretoria News?

The jury - or rather the Editor - is still out on this one.

But the biggest change in the history of the Pretoria News would come on December 11, 1939, when the paper, like others in South Africa, heeded a call from Prime Minister Jan Smuts to put news - especially that pertaining to World War II - on the front page.

This also saw a new Pretoria News masthead - without the “The” which would last until 1949, by which time the front page had settled down to a Noon Edition and a Stop Press with a solid page lead and headline, at least one main picture, two “ear” ads and a two-column “corner” advert. With big bold headlines, subheads bigger than previous main headlines and bolder use of pictures the Pretoria News truly became a “modern” paper in the 1970s.

This transpired under editors Tertius Myburgh and Andrew Drysdale - and in 1973 the “now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t” The in the masthead disappeared until 1987.

On January 21, 1985, the newspaper proudly announced: “The new look Pretoria News has arrived.”.

And it was - and more.

In the biggest shake-up since news moved to Page 1, the edition marked the ability to use full colour photographs - and adverts - on every page every day, whereas previously such pictures and adverts could only be accommodated in pre-printed sections.

More importantly, it heralded the start of a move to electronic, or digital printing, while abandoning the old metal printing method which had been used universally since the 1500s.

This would mean the clatter of typewriters would be replaced by the “click” of a computer mouse.

Symbolically, the silence would also mark the passing of a myriad of traditional printing trades with the abandoning of the hot metal printing process in which a mixture of molten lead and other metals were used to cast individual letters of the alphabet and placed to form the words of a story or headline.

A mould was then made of the completed page and this used to make a further impression which was then strapped on to the printing press.

With the new, electronic, printing this whole process would be swept aside, with computer-generated pages being sent directly to create a photographic plate, ready for printing.

The final switch-over to electronic editing was completed in 1995 - resulting in the closure of the Pretoria News printing presses - with the loss of jobs and the relaunch of a redesigned paper on October 2, 1995.

Apart from “The” inevitable change (the “The” disappeared again) the masthead became more stylised, with the introduction of a series of colour “promo” boxes below the masthead alerting potential leaders to stories inside. Columns also became slightly wider and dropped to seven to the page.

With the printing changes and greater, easier access to colour photographs editorial could finally go head-to-head with adverts and brighter, bolder papers editions.

But new challenges would arise for journalists and reporters in particular. The advent of modern technology allowed for off-site sub-editing and the production of pages; the paper’s staff work “in the cloud” and printing is outsourced to Caxton - with supplements such as this printed at The Star.

Reporters started using laptops and mobile devices to file “on-scene” instead of haring back to the office and advances in cellphones and other electronic devices meant reporters are expected to file videos, live voice clips and photographs for IOL and the Pretoria News social media such as Facebook.

The Pretoria News has truly entered the digital, multi-platform world of many other newspaper titles across the world - and staff are constantly having to update their skills and be agile to meet the growing demand for “instant” information.