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At the Close

In some ways, closing day is the day you have to be the most “on”

 

When people ask me to describe how a magazine is made, I divide the process into three stages: the creative stage, the processing stage, and the closing stage. While that last stage seems like an automatic process — just send all those ready files to print — closing day is actually a very intense day with a whole new set of decisions and considerations. In some ways, it’s the day you have to be the most “on.”

 

The captains of the closing process are the production managers. They manage the traffic syncing between the various teams, the printers, the content, and the clock. The pressure is constant, and the details are numerous. No matter what your level of authority, on a closing day you defer to their timetable.

The first decision on a closing day is which pieces will actually make it into the magazine. That’s more complicated than it sounds, because the final page count of our magazines is only settled once the deadline for ads has passed. A magazine that has more ads will also have more content. This means that in addition to the time-based, current material that absolutely must be printed in a specific issue, we also have pieces of different sizes waiting in the wings. We call these pieces “evergreens” — they never get stale and always add a bit of freshness and interest no matter what the week. And when we find out that the magazine will be bigger than anticipated, those pieces fill the extra space perfectly.

Once the final lineup has been determined, it’s time to create a grid — a chart on which every item in the magazine is assigned a specific page number. This means a whole new set of decisions. Which goes first — a breaking news story, or a feature about a prominent Torah personality? Should we break up the heavier material with a light story, or progress from more serious to more fun? Which pieces will get broken by full-page ads, and which can accommodate smaller ads?

 

Closing day isn’t just about numbers, charts, and grids. All material gets another layer of editorial review and proofreading before it’s closed for print. This time the review includes graphic elements like photos, titles, fonts, and teasers. Seeing the text in neat magazine columns can alert us to issues with the basic wording too. Nothing’s final until that last round of changes — changes to text, to teasers, even to titles and intros — is incorporated.

Closing day also means implementing any final changes requested by our rabbinic board. At times this can mean several rounds of internal discussion, or consultations with leading rabbanim. Always, there’s the unspoken agreement that while editorial considerations will be carefully weighed, the rabbinic board’s word is final. (Just last week, an entire piece was pulled due to rabbinic concerns that could not be resolved without prolonged back-and-forth between our halachic advisors, the writer, and the subject. The clock was ticking and the pressure was intense, so we used a different piece instead and absorbed a financial penalty.)

 

At what point does the closing process become a robotic progression of checking off pages from a list? Later than you think. Once all the pages have been closed as individual files, the text must be reviewed again in the format of contiguous pages, to ensure that it runs smoothly from one page to the next without any holes or repeats. Our print supervisor will check that all the color values are correct and that no images or text run outside the margins of the print area.

After hours of decisions, of critically scrutinizing every element on the page, we eventually reach the point when the only stage remaining is implementation. In a way, that’s the most terrifying point of all — whatever mistakes weren’t caught will forever remain that way, whatever errors of judgment we made can no longer be corrected. But getting this magazine to print and to our readers means that at some point in the process, you have to call it a day (or a night, in most cases) and make peace with the decisions that were made.

Even closing day has to come to a close.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 798)

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