Magazines Are Meant to be Read, not Made

You haven’t truly experienced hell week until you put out a magazine.

Working on a magazine is all fun and games until it’s time to actually put it into production. With layout, design and other curveballs, it can be the most infuriating process, making me forget why I love journalism in the first place. But I love every second of it.

I was told about a month and a half ago that I was going to be shifting into my role as editor-in-chief (EIC) of College Avenue with the last issue of the semester, the Spring Graduation Guide. This is one of the two guides (the other is done in the fall) we publish centered on graduation (or rather, “commencement”).

To be honest, I was nervous, yet excited when told I would be taking over. In the back of my mind, I knew it was coming, but it didn’t begin to sink in until I took the reins and headed the brainstorming session for issue content.

I constantly see myself as the underdog, since I am the youngest of the upcoming media heads. On the other hand, I have had just as much experience and passion as the others who are going into their senior year. The position fell into my lap as an unanticipated opportunity I didn’t know how much I wanted until I got it.

The issue began with brainstorm content. Writing is always the first step when it comes to producing a new issue; the rest of the issue shapes itself around the content.

The writers wrote on a variety of topics such as ROTC, dating post-graduation, and goal setting. This issue in particular had limited room for content, since it was a very advertisement heavy issue. The articles were submitted the week before design and layout began for editing.

The content gets edited while I wait for the advertising “dummies” ( a mock up of the page layouts) to get finalized so I can begin to make the design “budget” (which designers design what pages and where in the issue they are).

Not too much goes into editing, other than making sure the writers follow AP style and everything is grammatically correct. The final edited articles are then ready to put on the designed pages.

On the other hand, making the budget is a complicated process. Assigning the designs is the easy part; the hard part is determining where the best place in the issue is for each story.

First I looked at the length of the story and see if it merited a half or a full page. Second, I used my discretion to determine where the best place to place the story. This can be spreading out the writers so two articles by the same writer aren’t in close proximity of one another. Or this can be based off how grabbing an article is; it’s nice to have a balance to keep the reader interested in the entire issue.

An hour and a half later, the budget was sent to the designers, with all the articles accounted for and designs evenly distributed.

The issue was originally set to be published with 44 pages (it changed over the course of the week), so making the budgeting was a tedious process, since the pages were mostly filled with ads of all shapes and sizes.

Because it was so ad heavy, Creative Services made the templates for the issue, so it was one less thing for me to worry about in laying out the issue. For a normal issue,  I would have make the pages for each issue, working around the ad dummies.

But what’s production without its obstacles? In what I call the “911 of the day” (I usually have at least one of these regardless of College Avenue), the page templates turned out to be the sized wrong (turns out Creative Services was using the Collegian’s page dimensions), four pages were taken out of the issue (the printer would only print something 40 or 48 pages), meaning the budget had to get redone, and on top of all that, none of the pages had the correct folio on them.

This is exactly why I keep a “Keep Calm and Carry On” sign hung up in my room.

I was told that what happened was a very rare instance (of course it would happen at a time when I’m in charge) and we were able to fix it quickly. Cutting down the pages ended up benefitting me because the issue was already stressed for content given the amount of empty spaces we had to fill.

I decided to take on a lot of additional responsibilities of the issue: designing the “Contents” page, getting the graduation letter from Tony Frank, and miscellaneous filler content to fill in the gaps.

For the past two years, I’ve been more focused on the writing of the issue and not so much on the design. Now, as EIC, the roles are reversed: more designing, less writing.

Designing for the issue and receiving feedback has helped me learn what works and what doesn’t for a magazine. This can be difficult for me because I like to take risks and try out more dynamic designs (I read too many fashion magazines, and like to play around too much on Photoshop).

(Funny story, when we—the current EIC, myself, and my hired assistant editor—were about to start the final edit, the entire LSC—including Student Media—lost power for at least half an hour.)

To final edit the issue, we did an extensive edit checking for the following: students’ names were spelled correctly, professionals were properly attributed, facts and stats were fact checked, spelling, grammar and AP style were checked, photos and designs had bylines, and design looked consistent and professional.

The completed issue was exported to PDFs from InDesign and ready to be put online, both on Issuu.com and Collegian Central on the day of distribution.

It was a tedious process (not to mention a late night) but it was worth it. We—the Corporation and the staff—aim to put out the best product possible, leaving little room for error. It’s a matter of representing the CSU and Fort Collins community in the best way possible.

The pain of putting out a magazine can be quite agonizing, but there is no better feeling than holding the completed print product on the day of distribution.

 

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