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Editorial Conferences -- Part II

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at 2:05 PM

Insights from leading editors.

By William Dunkerley

The task of editorial planning confronts all editors. In Part I we reviewed some of the ins and outs of editorial conferences. Concurrently we conducted an anecdotal survey to peer into editors' current practices.

Our survey received a robust response, which indicates that most editors can clearly relate to this topic. Two of the survey respondees offered extensive comments. We present them here in this issue. Next time we'll give you a roundup of other comments along with our analysis.

PT in Motion

Donald Tepper, Editor: We publish eleven times a year (monthly with a combined December–January issue).

The magazine itself is put online each time we publish a print issue. We put it online as both a PDF and HTML. In addition, we have a separate online presence that's handled somewhat differently by a different staff member (but still under the magazine's banner). Typically, we'll have one or two news items daily. We then take a small selection of those and include them in a "News" department in our printed magazine.

We don't have editorial conferences per se to plan content for our next issues. But we do have regular staff meetings (generally every two weeks) where we go over any problems. We have an annual editorial calendar and stick to that unless there's a major reason for changing it. Our editorial conferences usually address selecting which article will be the cover story, brainstorming possible cover designs, and other items like that. But the content usually is pretty much set.

The publisher, editor, and associate editor take part.

Roughly 70–80 percent of our meeting time is devoted to the next two issues -- most of that to the next issue. But we also look ahead. Relatively little of that time is devoted to longer-range planning, however. That's usually addressed separately when we develop our editorial calendar for the next year.

At least for us, creating the editorial calendar is similar to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. We typically run three features (and a number of departments and columns) in each issue. We aim for a balance in each issue. We're published by an association, so usually one of the articles is somehow association-related. Examples: recaps of major meetings or a major anniversary in the profession's development.

We'll also try for an article on how our members (physical therapists and physical therapist assistants) work with/help patients. Examples: easing chronic pain, working with survivors of cancer, using hippotherapy (use of horses) as part of an intervention, treating athletes (a different sport each time, from roller derby to football to eSports), and so on.

The third article is sometimes a bigger-concept article. Examples: regenerative medicine, impact of the consumer movement, 3D printing, the future of clinical education, or the continued value of low-tech tools and devices.

It can be a challenging puzzle at times to present that variety in each issue ... and to have that variety in a series of issues without overlapping the themes. For example, "chronic pain" may overlap with "survivors of cancer." "Hippotherapy" might have the same sources as an article on therapy animals -- two very different topics, but there's overlap. There are other challenges: covering a range of practice settings, addressing different demographics (age, gender identification, race and ethnicity), and so on.

What seems to work for us is to begin the jigsaw puzzle by plugging in articles we'll be required to cover: meeting recaps, some awards, major anniversaries. Those usually already have a "traditional" slot in the calendar. Then we take other important topics (for example, social determinants of health or combatting burnout) and weave them into the schedule. Then we have the "fun" ones. They're still important, especially when we can show that the issues affect many/most of our members. These will include articles such as treating roller derby contestants or eGamers, plus, often, technology articles (3D printing, regenerative rehab).

Once that's done, it helps to step back and look for conflicts. Or look for contiguous months with similar articles. That usually requires some additional tweaking.

And when that's all completed and reviewed and approved by others in the association, we're generally set. The meetings then just become "Are we on track?"


Rosalie Donlon, Editor in Chief: Our magazine publishes monthly in print and in a digital edition. The features and columns are published on the website throughout the month.

In September I plan out an editorial calendar for the next year for print, consulting with the managing editor and the sales team. We plan around conferences where we know we'll have distribution. For example, the August issue focuses on workers' compensation because that one is distributed at the annual workers compensation conference for the Workers Compensation Institute.

For online, we have an ongoing team editorial calendar that is the responsibility of the online managing editor. Each member of the editorial team is responsible for checking the calendar daily to ensure that they're meeting deadlines and for adding upcoming stories to the calendar as well as the date they'll be ready to publish.

We have a team meeting once a month to talk about long-term story planning, such as traffic safety week or back-to-school-themed stories. We spend about 25 percent of the time on long-form story ideas. We also exchange story ideas daily via email, and the editors have beats they're responsible for. The team includes the editor in chief, managing editor, digital managing editor, and two associate editors as well as the editor in chief of a sister publication, Claims magazine.


--Plan as far in advance as you can for all content, especially long-form stories or to take advantage of themes, but be flexible so you can react to breaking news or trends.

--Maintain an online calendar that's accessible to everyone on the team. We use TeamUp and color-code entries.


Our survey shows there are many variations in how editors do their planning. In the next issue you'll hear from a cross section of other editors on the topic.

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

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