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People, Product, and Perfection

The editors have to keep juggling their desire for perfection with their consideration for the team


When the editorial team comes in on a closing day, we arrive with two goals: putting out a great magazine and getting the staff home at a reasonable time.

“Reasonable” is relative, of course. The closing process is long and detailed, and our workday stretches long past typical business hours. By the time every page has been approved by the printers (this magazine is printed in multiple locations by several different printing companies, so that’s a lot of approvals), the traffic in the streets below has eased, people are scurrying to and from the wedding halls near the office, and our little ones are already in bed.

On a week where there is breaking news such as the petirah of a gadol, some sort of tragedy or disaster, or l’havdil an important election or government shakeup, the long day becomes longer. Our staff gears up for a late night, making new plans for child care or supper or simchahs. That’s part of the job, and we’re blessed with a team that meets the challenge with understanding and grace.

But on a regular week, even without breaking news, closing days always bring an extra drive for quality. Somehow the adrenaline of that truly final deadline heightens our perception — everything feels sharper and clearer, unseen mistakes jump at us with new clarity — and we grab that last chance to tweak and fix and perfect.

That’s why, when we hire staff, we’re looking for someone who possesses not just the requisite skills and talents, but also an affable personality — open and agreeable to fixing, changing, and adjusting under high pressure. People who can get into that Color War mode of, “we’re working together to make this great and come out on the winning side before morning!”

If you don’t want the material to shine, if you aren’t open to that additional layer of polish, you’re not going to be a happy camper.

Still, an editor who’s aiming for the best quality has to remember the other goal of a closing day: getting the staff home. Often there are lonely spouses and children waiting, or simchahs to attend, or just the very valid need to breathe and disconnect after a long day. Remember, tomorrow morning, everyone has to show up and start the process all over again.

That’s why the editors have to keep juggling their desire for perfection with their consideration for the team. Yes, the product might look that much slicker if we fix this style issue — but at what cost to the people who put it out?

The calculus gets tougher when it’s not a style issue or preference, but a real error. For the most part, we do our best to fix any errors we spot. No one wants to go home with the knowledge that a typo or bad grammar mistake went to print on their watch. And we will do anything we can to safeguard someone’s reputation, even if it means removing entire portions of an article at the last minute.

Still, something we’ve learned with time is that no magazine will be perfect. There will always be that mistake that made it past the proofreader, the error that crept in during closing, the detail that should have been fact-checked.

No matter how much you care about quality, no matter how tightly you link your reputation to the professionalism of your work, after a certain stage in the process, you have to prioritize the human beings at their desks (and their waiting families) over the perfection of the product.

Because let’s be honest: The final results of our efforts will never be perfect. Only the Divine Creator can achieve that. But at least we can go home knowing that we didn’t put the inevitably imperfect pages before the hardworking people.

Shoshana Friedman

Managing Editor


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 927)

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