What is a CMS? What does it do?

People who work on newspapers or on news websites speak often of “the system”. Sometimes they mean it in a general sense (the way in which the world is run, or how their company works) – but mostly they mean the computer program that they use to write or edit their articles.
These staffers sometimes don’t know that the system (which is often hated) has another, longer name: it is actually a content management system, or CMS.

The CMSes used to make newspapers or big news websites are complex affairs because they allow many people to work on various pieces of content at the same time. That multi-user setup requires various levels of access to the system, and the ability to move pieces of content to different departments, where people will do different things to each piece of content. An article may be written, then edited, then illustrated by different sets of people.

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