Magazines Don’t Make Themselves?

6 05 2010

Meghan PlummerBy Meghan Plummer (@megplumps)

I can safely say that I adore magazines. I’m a sucker for the glossy pages, excellent photography and relaxed writing style. I love that I can depend on my Rolling Stone every week and my SPIN every month, and seeing that glorious issue among all the foolish envelopes in my mailbox makes me squeal.

When I signed up for classes, I thought to myself, Hey, I love magazines. I know magazines. Magazines and I are tight. So why not sign up for Magazine Editing and Production?

After the first half of the semester ended, I came to the realization that magazines and I had a purely superficial relationship. I knew nothing about the inner workings; my magazines appeared in my mailbox like they fell from above, magically complete.

Gasp! People actually have to make those magazines? They have to sell ads, plan editorial a year in advance and keep the readers and advertisers happy while still keeping a shred of dignity for themselves? My rose-colored glasses lay helpless, crushed by the giant shoe of reality.

There was no time to waste when the class started. Within a couple weeks, I was pitching a story for Pursuit, a student publication for the College of Business. My relationship with the College of Business is basically nonexistent; the Journalism Department and College of Business are neighbors, but I’ve never crossed the property line or even cast a wave in its direction. Suddenly, I had to know what made business students tick.

After writing articles, we blueprinted the magazine in groups. Not only did we decide the fate of our classmates’ stories by assigning word counts and deciding which stories were feature-worthy, but we also had to place what seemed like a thousand ads.

Let me tell you, I know nothing about placing ads.

Where should we put this half-page ad that will intrude upon our classmate’s layout? What about these quarter-page and full-page ads? Oh, and there are zillions more of them?

Finally, after all the compromising that comes with teamwork, my group settled on our blueprint. Each group presented its blueprint and justified its reasons for placing stories and ads where it did. After much discussion, our instructor, Dana Baumgart, took her notes home and put it all together into the final blueprint.

My class still has plenty of work to do. The next obstacles to overcome are laying out my story and the daunting task of cutting my word count. Given space for 375 words and a story that currently sits at about 800, I’ve got plenty of work ahead.

Next September, after our hard work is complete, we’ll have a real magazine in our hands. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Now I know that those glossy pages don’t just fall from the sky. It takes an immense amount of work to make a magazine, and now that I know that, magazines and I are on the road to a much healthier relationship.








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