Do you remember the movie Babe? Babe is a pig who behaves like a sheep dog and surprises his owner Mr. Hogget by herding sheep successfully. The pig gathers all the scattered sheep together and classifies them according to instructions within timeline. That´s pretty much what I have been doing almost for a decade as a sub-editor and producer.
The work of a sub-editor and producer is mostly project management. Every customer magazine and every issue is a project of its own. I have been responsible for the production of 10 different titles a year at best. Each title had 1-4 issues a year and some had versions in different languages.
The work consisted of participating in the meetings of editorial board where we planned in advance the coming issue. I wrote down the wishes and ideas of the board and sometimes afterwards wrote a memo out of it. After the meeting if I were the producer of the magazine I developed the ideas further and if necessary asked more info about the theme if needed from the contact person mentioned in the meeting.
Then I called the team together and discussed with them about the photos and layout. The photo editor took the task of planning further and ordered the photos from freelancers or the in house photographers. The AD had a clear view what kind of material was going to be and could make sure that the ordered photos and illustrations were according to magazine concept. My task as a producer was to brief and order the articles according to concept. I looked for the most suitable writers for each article. Also the price negotiations with the freelancer writers was part of my work but that was not really my forte.
My task as a sub-editor was to keep all the pieces of the puzzle together. I draw the time table for the each issue and let it to be known. I defined the deadlines for everybody and made it sure that they kept in line. Quite often I had to remind some subcontractor about the timeline and ask for their input for the magazine. So I was the barking sheep pig who took care of that all over scattered materials were coming in time to the newsroom: ads in right size, right language and just in time; articles to be edited by me, translations, photos, illustrations and customer´s comments on articles or translations.
I also put the photos in named folders so that the AD would know which material belongs to which article and page according to magazine spread sheet that I had drawn. I checked the articles that the contents were what I ordered for and sometimes made some special extra request for the writers to alter or add something to their text. I kept the prepress, printing house etc. always aware of the timetable and let them know if there were any changes or delays in schedule.
Sometimes when our regular ad was busy with another magazine I had to keep sure that the helping hand did the layout of the magazine according to the concept. That meant a few times that I told what pictures should be chosen in a certain place. I proof read and checked the proof prints, shortened the text if needed, made headlines and captions, made sure that the hyphenation and the text run nicely in columns and the prints were presentable to customer. Then I ordered a messenger or sent a pdf to a customer for approval.
Co-operation with the customer
After approval I made together with the ad the needed corrections asked by a customer. After corrections I sent another set of prints/pdf to the customer and after the final approval the magazine was ready to be sent for the prepress. The ad sent the layout and picture files for the prepress and I sent the prints and regards.
I told the customer when to update their postal register and when to send it to the printing house. I also let the contact person in customer end to know when the finished product will be delivered on their doorstep. I let them know when the readers would get the magazine by mail so that they could update their web pages and put the pdf of the magazine on the pages on the same day. Sometimes there was a special occasion like expo where some of the magazines had to be delivered at the exact strike of the clock. I took care of it with the help of printing house even though sometimes I had to find out where the missing shipment or misplaced magazines are before the expo begins.
All the organizing took so much of my time that I had less time to write articles as what I would have liked. So I wrote mainly small news pieces and occasionally a larger article but no longer than a spread. Keeping it short was natural to me because after all I was taught to write press releases.
In the role of the producer I collected the feedback from the magazine from the customers and readers if I could get any and used it to develop the magazine further. I tried to keep my ears open and follow the industry in question so that I could come up with original ideas to be presented in the next editorial board meeting. I tried to listen the needs of the customer and make small changings to the concept from time to time accordingly with the help of the team.
I was given the chance to plan magazine concepts for a few times with the help of ad and the customer needs. It was rewarding and creative job that I liked even though it put all the things I´ve learned in test. It was also a showcase of trust from my superiors. My role and tasks varied according to what magazine was in question. In some magazines I was only a sub-editor and in some I was both the producer and sub-editor. My responsibilities grew with me along with the work experience. I learned to become more organized and careful which was not at all typical of me when I started the job.
In a creative job like magazine production there sometimes emergences a problem. The problem needs to be solved quickly and efficiently but in a creative way because no problem is a similar than before.
Once we had too little amount of pages in a magazine. The most cost effective way to print is to have the kind of page amount that can be devided by number 16. I told about the problem to a producer and she came up with the idea that we add some pages for notes. The ad added the headline notes and filled the pages with lines under empty rows. So we managed to pull through with the thick magazine.
I remember also another time when it was summer and almost all the people were on a holiday. There were only couple of sumer trainees and I working. I got the proofs from prepress and when I checked them I noticed that one of the advertising customers did not have sent their ad on time.
There was only two hours time before the printing should happen. I tried to reach the advertisement sales person but she was on vacation. Then I called directly to the ad customer and asked if the ad was coming. The answer was that they had forgotten all about it and could not produce a new ad at that short of a notice. I gathered the gang up: AD trainee, journalist trainee and I discussed how we could fill the empty space in the magazine. It was a quarter of a page in question.
We decided to prolong one of the articles. The easiest way to do that was to continue an article that was compiled from small pieces of texts and photos. Luckily we had left some extra photos for it and the article was written by this journalist trainee who was in newsroom with me. I asked the ad and journalist trainee to choose together a photo and the journalist trainee to write about it. I edited and proof read the material before sending it to prepress. All in all we managed to solve the problem so that the press did not have to postpone the pressing.
I loved my years as “a sheep pig”. Taking care of things was rewarding and I felt that my boss truely trusted me. This gradually over the years grown responsibility was a source of motivation. Now I am trying to find a new job that could give me as big satisfaction as the old one gave. Hopefully I can call myself Communication Officer or Communication Consultant sometimes in the future.