Re: Much too easy...
"... early photo-type and hot-wax layout"
I caught the very end of that era at the job I was referring to above. When I joined the company in 1991, it was all typeset galleys and manual paste-up as you describe, although ads (the ones our graphic designers created as a service, as opposed to camera-ready artwork sent by clients) were imageset in their final form. By the time I left in 1998, the (new) imagesetter was cranking out camera-ready pages; paste-up was a thing of the past. And only a couple of years later, the pages went to direct to plate (the details of which I'm far from clear on since, as noted, I wasn't there).
A sad postscript: the pandemic did in their existence as a print publication entirely. They're now web-only -- and much diminished in terms of content from when I worked there.
For those following along: the "treated paper", in our case, was exposed and developed photographic paper. It was produced by a device called an "imagesetter", which I've described elsewhere.
The "hot wax" was the adhesive used to stick said paper to the final page form -- it was surprisingly sticky wax, and felt so to the touch. Why wax instead of regular glue? It was certainly faster -- the piece of paper you wanted to stick down zipped through the waxer in a fraction of a second as I recall, as opposed to many seconds faffing about with a glue stick or whatever. What I don't know is whether wax also produced a superior result -- cleaner or more securely fastened or whatever. Oh, one thing: as PRR says, you could peel something off and reposition it if you needed to.
(Being in IT, I never did any of this back-end stuff myself, but just watched other people doing it. My involvement was more at the front end: supporting the desktop-publishing and illustration software whose output was sent to that imagesetter, and care and feeding of the device itself.)
"Stories arrived with short 1 or 2 word tags..."
Our word for that was the slug. An article's slug served as the base filename for the story and its various bits on the file server -- main body copy, headlines, images, etc. "Slug" is an old newspaper term. As far as I can tell, this usage is a specialized sense meaning "a bit of type that's off to the side, not intended to appear on the final page", the more general sense being "any chunk of type metal". To elaborate on Wikipedia's definition, a story's slug is an ID that is (a) unique within the issue -- but can be reused from issue to issue (and in our case often was, for recurring features) -- and (b) meaningful to humans -- not e.g., just a number, but something descriptive.
Interestingly, "slug" has come across into web publishing, still meaning, essentially, a human-meaningful unique ID for an article. That'd be the dragonfly_bsd_6_4 piece of this comment thread's URL, which was inherited from Liam's original article.