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Mirrors or Windows?

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very person, every family, every institution and business has its corona story. Mishpacha’s operation includes many components in many locations, so when corona hit, we were in some ways primed for a shift to remote-based work. But the actual stitching together of all the little pieces that make a magazine — text, news updates, design, ads, last-minute changes and adjustment — happens every week as a collaborative effort, with the closing team working together under one roof. Now, under health ministry guidelines, closing day is limited to a very small team of just ten staff members working from the office, which itself has been separated in three sealed zones. And it’s a very different reality.
We’ve always valued our team, but I don’t know if we ever realized how much the togetherness enhanced our efficiency. Under corona protocol, we have many key players working in different locations and different times (often with cute little people keeping things lively and distracted). We’ve lost the very real sense of progress as items get checked off a whiteboard, piles of marked-up papers are transferred from desk to desk, and calls of encouragement and personal feedback are shared. Operating as a silent, remote orchestra, it’s a challenge to keep up morale, to keep the different pieces moving, to communicate about nuances and final touches.
But even as we put the staff’s health and wellbeing first, we’re also committed to giving this magazine our best possible effort. We know that so many of our readers see Mishpacha as a connective force — a weekly celebration of the vibrancy of frum life, a spirited dialogue with like-minded people, a mix of information and inspiration — and now, when we’re all feeling isolated, it takes on even more value. We don’t want to let you down.

When we plan our content for a typical week, we aim for a mix of what we call “windows” and “mirrors.” Mirrors refers to the material that reflects our daily life — the current events and headlines, the social issues and concerns, the people and phenomena that shape our reality. “Windows” is the material that gives you a glimpse of something outside all that. You might think of it as escapist reading — a travel piece, a close-up look at a celebrity, an immersive story describing a life completely unlike your own.

For the past few weeks, the coronavirus has eclipsed just about everything on our mental screens. So we devoted lots of pages and manpower to our coverage of the growing menace. Still, we made sure to pack the back of the magazine with material that could serve as an escape. Not every word of every page has to revolve around this threat.

As we planned yet another magazine, we wondered how to calibrate the package. Virtually everything we look at, everything we hear, centers around corona. It’s become the focus of every tefillah, the theme of every speech, the punch line for every joke and even the hook for every tzedakah appeal. When Shabbos would arrive once again, would our readers want to sink into another magazine dominated by this mirror to the stark news? Or would they primarily be seeking an escape?

A pandemic of this nature — so pervasive, so deadly, so all-encompassing — can never be totally ignored. Corona is still a theme in this week’s package, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes as a side angle. But after asking around and trying to gauge readers’ preferences, we decided to focus as well on other stories, to give you a window into people, places, and messages from the world that now seems so distant: that planet where people share simchahs in person, where children wait for school buses every morning, where mayors of major cities plan mega-development projects, where there are hikes to take and wonders of nature to marvel at.

And where magazines are produced by buzzing teams collaborating live under one roof.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 804)

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