Back in the day
In Remembering Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing, Ved Mehta describes the editing routine over which William Shawn presided:
The routine of submissions for long fact pieces was as tedious as it was formidable. Whereas manuscripts that were developed from ideas discussed with Mr. Shawn went directly to him, unsolicited manuscripts were culled for him by readers, and any that looked at all promising were sent to his apartment. ... The ones he accepted would be sent up to the typing pool, and it would prepare triple-spaced copies with big margins for editing. The typed manuscripts would be read aloud and checked against the author’s originals, then sent back to Mr. Shawn, and he would put them in his own pile for editing or eventually assign them separately to one of the four or five fact editors. He would generally tell the editor how long a manuscript should be and whether it should be edited to run in one issue or several issues, If it was to run in several issues, the editor was required not only to re-identify in the later parts every person and event mentioned in the earlier ones but also to do so in a way that would orient readers picking up the series in the middle but would not irritate those who had read it from the beginning. This basic editing was generally done without consultation with the author. Then the edited manuscript was sent to the copy desk, which was restricted to making routine corrections in spelling and punctuation. From there it traveled to the makeup department and on to the printing plant, to be set up in galleys. The galleys got at least three readings besides those of the author, the assigned editor, and Mr. Shawn. They were read by Greenstein, who went over the piece for legal problems; by a checker, who made sure that every fact was correct; and by Eleanor Gould, who read them for grammar, sense, clarity, and consistency, and whose queries and notes were sometimes almost as long as the text. The galleys, once the editor handling the piece had dealt with the queries, were sent to the collating department, and there all the changes were consolidated and transferred to what was known as the reader’s proof. During that process, conflicts among various changes were resolved by the editor of the piece. The reader’s proof then went to the makeup department and the printing plant to be put into page. The page proofs were read not only by the checker, who would make any late fixes needed to keep up with current events, and by Mr. Shawn, who tried to reread everything before it ran, but also by a proofreader and an O.K.er, both of whom were seeing the piece for the first time. The new changes were consolidated on a new reader’s proof and were read through again by the O.K.er to iron out any new conflicts. The checker and the editor got one last look. If there were revised pages, as there often were, the whole process was repeated.