A Book A Week | July 21, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 29 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 29 | p. 3 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: July 21, 2008

A Book A Week

Department: Editor's Page
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I have had the privilege to serve on this magazine’s staff as the managing editor since early last year. For many years before that, I primarily worked as a magazine writer, which is to say, I contributed stories with some regularity to a weekly or monthly periodical. For many writers, myself included, the job pretty much means preparing a draft of a story and throwing it over a fence to someplace where editors, production teams—and maybe even publishing elves of some kind—execute the magic that turns words into finished magazine pages.

I now know that magic has nothing to do with it. Completing each issue of C&EN takes the hard work and time of more than 50 individuals. Each issue incorporates a diversity of writing, editing, design, information technology, and production skills. Each one takes 10,000 decisions. It takes everyone caring about the readers and striving for excellence. On Mondays, when I first see a printed issue of the magazine that we signed off on the prior Thursday, I am struck by the achievement: In my hands is a little book that the team on the masthead created in just one week.

Each issue represents an expansive project. Our writers scan the world for happenings, trends, people, successes, failures, and other stories about the chemical enterprise that our readers ought to or might want to know about. Each writer has an extensive network of connections that the magazine uses to track thousands of people and institutions. In our weekly editorial meetings, we choose those stories to pursue for our print and online venues, including our daily news postings. We do so with confidence only because we all know that the refined ore that writers and editors produce will feed into what has been honed over the years into a well-oiled production machine.

That ore—whether it’s a story on drug discovery, a company profile, an analysis of how different presidential candidates might approach the chemical industry, or the use of disease-related proteins for making useful materials—undergoes a process akin to manufacturing a good.

Each story undergoes a multi-tiered editing process with the goal of offering our readers the best combination of writing and content. Simultaneously, the production staff, which contributes its own editorial observations and refinements, works within the constraints of language and our magazine’s design and style to recast each magazine component in a form that the electronic workplace demands. At the same time, our in-house designers lay out the writers’ words, images from various sources, headlines, captions, and other components into the characteristic look and feel of C&EN pages. A dozen sets of eyes scour over proofs of these pages for any residual errors, even misplaced commas, which still can be corrected before other staff members convert all of that activity into final-form electronic streams suitable for our printer in Minnesota. There, more dedicated people and machines render those 1s and 0s into hold-in-your-hands issues of our magazine.

That’s not all. Our Web staff concurrently uses other sets of tools to create an online version of the magazine in addition to Web-only offerings, including videos, slide shows, and our blog. All the while, our advertising staff has been selling enough ads to help support this relentless operation. In an even larger view, the postal service, truckers who deliver paper to the printer, other ACS employees who keep our offices running—and surely some publishing elves somewhere—also have a part in each issue of C&EN.

I could go on, but we are in the middle of producing a little book.

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Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

 
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