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Issue for May 2021

Are Editors Ready to Return to the Office?

Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 9:38 AM

In the news: Digiday.com examines how media professionals feel about returning to their physical offices.

With vaccination rates climbing, case numbers falling, and pandemic restrictions easing to varying degrees across the US, how do editors and publishers feel about returning to in-person work? Jessica Davies reports that “Digiday surveyed 329 people from across publishers, brand marketers, agencies and platforms, with the majority of respondents coming from publishers and agencies,” and the survey turned up a spectrum of feelings on the subject. Per the survey results, Davies says, “4% said they felt happy at the prospect, 31% said excited and 19% relieved. But 43% said they felt anxious, 9% said they were scared and 27% said they felt stressed by the prospect.”

Davies says that publishing and advertising professionals are likely to experience more uncertainty in the coming months as businesses solidify their visions for a post-pandemic future. And although 54% percent were happy, excited, or relieved at the idea of returning, Davies says that 55% are concerned that colleagues won’t follow masking and sanitizing protocols, and 50% are nervous about working alongside unvaccinated coworkers.

On top of all that, it can’t be ignored that the American concept of working life has changed, in some respects irreversibly. Companies that try to go back to total in-office work without any flexibility or remote work options will lose talent to companies with more flexible options. Read more about the Digiday survey results here.

Also Notable

AP Journalists Pushing Back against Firing

The firing this week of journalist Emily Wilder has sparked a lot of controversy online. After only a few weeks working for the Associated Press, she was fired for social media violations. Tom Jones of Poynter.org reports: “Wilder says she is being punished for past pro-Palestinian activism while in college and for the pushback against her hiring by conservative media and even Sen. Tom Cotton.” The firing was controversial enough to prompt AP journalists to write a joint statement calling out their employer on the firing itself and the AP’s lack of transparency regarding the decision. Read more here, and see the Columbia Journalism Review’s coverage here.

The Fragile Worldwide Web

Hyperlinks are an important component of online content. But, as John Bowers, Clare Stanton, and Jonathan Zittrain discuss in a recent CJR.org piece, web content can be volatile” “The fragility of the Web poses an issue for any area of work or interest that is reliant on written records,” they write. “Loss of reference material, negative SEO impacts, and malicious hijacking of valuable outlinks are among the adverse effects of a broken URL. More fundamentally, it leaves articles from decades past as shells of their former selves, cut off from their original sourcing and context.” And the problem goes far beyond broken URLs; as the writers point out, “returning a valid page isn’t the same thing as returning the page as seen by the author who originally included the link in an article,” an issue known as content drift. Bowers, Stanton, and Zittrain discuss their ideas for minimizing the impact of these web issues and others here.

Rumor: Condé Nast Moving to New Jersey?

Reportedly, publisher Condé Nast’s parent company is scouting out office options in Newe Jersey. Kathryn Hopkins of WWD.com says: “Advance Publications, the owner of Condé Nast, owes its landlord at One World Trade Center almost $10 million in rent, according to a new document by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.” Rent is significantly cheaper in Jersey, and the high price tag of Manhattan rent is tougher for publishers to justify in a post-pandemic world. “Condé Nast’s global chief of people, Stan Duncan, has informed employees in a memo that remote working will be “a larger part of our future workforce strategy,’” reports Hopkins. Read more here.

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How's Your Editorial Calendar?

Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 9:37 AM

What impact has Covid had on your editorial planning?

By William Dunkerley

Covid has confronted editors with many unexpected changes. Work-at-home has become commonplace. Many publications had to cope with a decrease in ad pages. In some cases reader needs and interests have been influenced by the pandemic.

Editors have been quick to adapt their content to today's realities. We asked a few to share their related experiences. Here's what they told us:

--Patricia L. Harman, editor-in-chief, PropertyCasualty360.com: "We create an annual editorial calendar -- usually in early September. The pandemic didn't have a tremendous impact on it, but it did affect some of the events that we try to tie into our editorial. We did have to move around a couple of articles or add some into other issues because events were rescheduled.

"While I like to joke about getting my crystal ball out when it's time to do the editorial calendar, the reality is that conversations with industry leaders are extremely helpful in shaping our calendar. I have off-the-record conversations with executives that are extremely educational and provide me with the broad perspective I need to do my job well.

"With more conferences online, I've been exposed to numerous speakers and then followed up with them either by email or LinkedIn. Those contacts have led to more conversations, some interviews, and even some contributors. I'm always watching for interesting trends and emerging topics, and try to work those into our future calendars."

--Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Trucking: "In the industry we cover, editorial calendars are a must.

"We did make some on-the-go changes last year. For instance, we scrapped our cover story for the May issue and pivoted to one on how our readers were affected by and dealing with Covid-19. A loss of ad pages and downsized staff meant we had to drop some planned coverage. (We also cut some regular departments and columns.) When we were planning this year's calendar late last summer, we kept those reduced pages in mind and included fewer planned features.

"Because our sales staff uses the editorial calendar when working with clients on their media schedules, we had to communicate closely with them as we made these changes.

"Not pandemic-related, but just about developing editorial calendars in general: During the year I keep a list of ideas as they occur to me or come up in our editorial meetings or discussions with readers. During the planning process, we ask our Editorial Advisory Board for input. And we have our sales team ask their clients for suggestions -- we get some surprisingly good ideas.

"What we're trying to develop now is a digital editorial calendar and social media calendar. I'd love to see a future article about how other editors are doing that."

--Jenn Fiedler, editor, Township Focus: "I compile a rough editorial calendar, and that was definitely thrown on its head by the pandemic.

"We typically produce 11 issues a year, which are sent to nearly 9,000 readers -- predominantly local township leaders, as well as state and federal lawmakers. When the pandemic broke out, a large part of our editorial content shifted to how our members -- locally elected officials -- could continue to serve their communities, provide information to their residents, and the impact that it could have on their budgets, services, etc.

"In addition, state and federal guidance, orders, and requirements for public gatherings -- including township board meetings -- were coming out constantly, and often changing near daily. We ended up combining several issues, due to last-minute changing guidance (or, in one case, a state supreme court ruling that nullified statewide pandemic executive orders) that required rewrites upon rewrites and pushed back our production schedule.

"It was incredibly stressful, but ultimately, our goal is to provide the best, most comprehensive information for township leaders to serve their residents, who comprise more than half of our state's population.

"I am communications director for the Michigan Townships Association, our publisher. We have heard from our members that our resources and information for them was invaluable throughout the pandemic, so our efforts were appreciated and made a difference in Michigan communities. That is beyond gratifying. I was proud of what we were able accomplish during a wholly chaotic time.

"My best advice is something that has always been true for journalism and communications, but was certainly put to the test over the past year: Be nimble and able to quickly pivot as needed. Remember your audience and what they need from you. With that mindset, I was able to keep our members in mind, which helped me focus on and filter the key information our members needed to know. We hope that it helped to make a difference in Michigan communities and residents to get through this tumultuous time."

--Laura M. Porinchak, editor, Construction Dimensions: "Our publication is written for the essential construction audience. So other than including Covid-19 safety articles in various issues throughout the past year, there has been no interference whatsoever by the pandemic.

"I believe continuing with 'business as usual' gives our readers a sense of normality and security. As we begin to prepare our 2022 editorial calendar, the pandemic is sure to be included as a primary subject in one issue, but the other 11 issues will focus on topics familiar to our audience."

--Dave Fusaro. editor-in-chief, Food Processing magazine: "We have a pretty extensive editorial calendar. It identifies six stories for each issue (72 for the year), and it also promises digital offerings (webinars and ebooks) we will do every month. We have each calendar finished before Labor Day of the upcoming year.

"The pandemic did create two opportunities last year: pandemic-themed stories we substituted for less interesting or timely ones. That's not unusual, no more than in any other year. While I consider the editorial calendar a pretty sincere promise, every year we change at least one story because something timely comes up.

"Much of our ad sales are connected to calendar topics, so we let our salespeople know of a change as far in advance as possible, and leave the door open for debate and pushback."

--Howard Rauch, president, Editorial Solutions, Inc: "The issue that comes to mind for me is the degree to which the calendar shares space between editorial hooks offering only direct advertiser appeal and non-hook, timely topics devoted to high-value, non-commercial content.

"Perhaps there are many cases where non-commercial content is totally ignored. Other times this content is accorded leadership space. I prefer the latter approach."

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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In Writing, It's the Soul We're After

Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 9:36 AM

The search for soul is in the writer's reason for being.

By Peter P. Jacobi

Soul is that intangible which animates us and gives focus to what we think and do and feel. In another sense, it implies the core, the essence of something.

And, yet again, soul can refer to the depths of feeling expressed.

Preachers and teachers of faith must deal with the first aspect of soul. But the other meanings are ours to consider and manage as writers and editors.

The Writer's Soul Unleashed

In writing, it's the soul we’re after, you see.

Our own soul squeezed from some deep within to become a riotous black on a vacuum of white. We become words on paper. Squirming every which way. Uncontrollable. Seeking to escape, to jump off paper or screen into some void from which they cannot be retrieved.

And when they do, we are left diminished.

Can there be a resurgence of soul, we wonder, a renewed strength of spirit, strength enough so we can and will try once more, perhaps only to fail again?

On that struggle Dylan Thomas wrote:

I fell in love -- that is the only expression I can think of -- at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though, sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.... There they were, seemingly lifeless, made only of black and white, but out of them, out of their own being, came love and terror and pity and pain and wonder and all the other vague abstractions that make our ephemeral lives dangerous, great, and bearable. Out of them came the gusts and grunts and hiccups and heehaws of the common fun of the earth; and though what the words meant was, in its own way, often deliciously funny enough, so much funnier seemed to me, at this almost forgotten time, the shape and shade and size and noise of the words as they hummed, strummed, jogged, and galloped along.

The Subject's Essence Captured

It's the soul we're after, you see.

But not our own.

The soul of our subject, its inner being lifted onto paper and screen and verbalized so that it can be seen or envisioned or encapsulated as it never has been before nor ever will be again.

Once again, however, soul -- quicksilvery as it is -- defies enslavement. It fights to remain, at least in part, a mystery.

Mike Lupica, once a New York Daily News sportswriter, accomplished a capture of subject. He was at a Sylvester Stallone–hosted party in Manhattan on the night after the Tyson-Bruno fight. Muhammad Ali entered, he the guest of honor. Lupica wrote:

After all the boxing nights that were all about him, we watch a 50-year-old man moving slowly and silently through life the way stroke victims do.

He does not float like a butterfly anymore. He just floats. His wife helped him with his dinner Saturday night. He leaned close to his dessert, a piece of cake, and managed that himself.... At the All-Star Café Saturday night, people talked about how intensely Ali stared at the screen, and a straw forgotten in his mouth, when Tyson finally came out of his dressing room, a little before midnight. They wondered what Hollywood's thinking, about nights like this, if he could remember them.

The Reader's Soul Transformed

It's the soul were after, you see.

But not only our own or that of our subject.

The soul of someone who reads our words and surrenders to their charms or horrors, to their passion or repose, to their energy and concept. The soul of someone caught by our musings and, therefore, changed forever. Because, after all, it's not to take that soul we’re after. It's to enrich, enlarge that soul.

But that can be as near impossible as the capture of self and subject. The reader's soul is a floating thing.

Jane Sutton supplied the story for World Vision magazine titled "Robbing God's Cradle." She writes:

Pattinathar's whole life used to be a small hut and endless days making beedi cigarettes. Five years ago, the boy, then 12, labored for little more than $1 a week in a beedi-making factory in North Arcot, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He spent long hours sitting cross-legged, elbow-to-elbow with other youths, rolling tobacco into cut leaves and closing the ends of the slender, locally popular cigarettes while constantly breathing in carcinogenic tobacco dust. If he failed to complete his daily quota of 2,500 beedis, the foreman beat him.

Pattinathar was a victim of bonded labor, an especially egregious form of child labor prevalent in societies where borrowing and indebtedness are customary for poor families. Impoverished parents take out loans and put up their children as living collateral.

My soul, as reader, is caught for now, at least until another vision or worry takes its place. But what about a reader in India with different realities for burden? How about the man quoted early on in another past article on this subject, the Atlantic Monthly's "Child Labor in Pakistan" by Jonathan Silvers:

No two negotiations for the sale of a child are alike, but all are founded on the pretense that the parties involved have the best interests of the child at heart. On this sweltering morning in the Punjab village of Wasan Pura a carpet master, Sadique, is describing for a thirty-year-old brick worker named Mirza the advantages his son will enjoy as an apprentice weaver.

"I've admired your boy for several months," Sadique says. "Nadeem is bright and ambitious. He will learn far more practical skills in six months at the loom than he would in six years at school. He will be taught by experienced craftsmen, and his pay will rise as his skills improve. Have no doubt, your son will be thankful for the opportunity you have given him, and the Lord will bless you for looking so well after your own."

Sadique, reading the story, which shields his soul from its lesson. He wouldn't understand, or he wouldn't want to understand.

As writers, we win some, and lose some.

The search for soul, however, is in the writer's reason for being. That search is our struggle and curse and test and teasing and wonder and worry.

Why do we do it?

Because we must. As writers, we must.

It is our burden -- to labor.

It is our balloon -- to soar.

We must keep laboring and, thereby, keep sorry.

The world needs souls harvested.

A classic article from a past issue in tribute to the late Peter J. Jacobi, longtime EO writer and author of The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It.

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Free Assistance

Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 9:35 AM

During this time of crisis, we stand ready to answer privately any specific questions our readers may have, time permitting. You can contact us at: crisis-help@editorsonly.com.

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