Kevin Heslin, an editor at Mission Critical magazine, recently wrote a blog post called The Joy of Print. He extolled the virtues of feeling a printed edition of a magazine in your hand when you’re the guy with key responsibilities for making it happen. Interestingly enough, Kevin edits a magazine that tries to cover the latest information for the computer experts tasked with building and maintaining data centers — those vital organs so many organizations have at the heart of their enterprises these days.
His role isn’t an easy balancing act — using print to spread news about a digitally driven industry. As he wrote:
The Internet pressures my colleagues and me to produce information that readers find the most useful. Yet another high wire to walk. So it is with anticipation and trepidation that I ask you to check your mailboxes, for you will judge just how well we did this time around.
Magazines have a long lead time and whether they come out monthly or even weekly, they risk being well behind the latest news spreading on the Internet. It wasn’t long ago that Twitter issued a service advisory, apologizing for some tweets being delayed “by as much as 5 minutes.” That’s the world we live in now – a world in which having to wait a few extra minutes for an update on something can be incredibly frustrating for some people.
Kevin also wrote in his post that he enjoys the Internet and all it has to offer, so he’s hardly a Luddite who thinks we should all be waiting patiently by our mailboxes each month for the glossy compilation of news. Still, he raises an excellent point about printed materials having to meet more exacting standards from start to finish than anything done in the digital world.
…much thought must go into every issue, as any errors or misstatements cannot be corrected. Though many blogs are well written and thoughtful, bloggers can and do revisit their entries and correct errors. Some label these changes updates or corrections, and others merely change the text…I like print because of the requirement to get the story right the first time. And contrary to the public perception, editors don’t like playing it safe. We are the high-wire acts of the publishing world, risking all on every permanent word.
As the author on two blogs and a regular contributor to several online-only publications, I am certainly supportive of this new era of electronic mediums delivering news and commentary. But as a former newspaper reporter and editor, I can totally relate to what Kevin is saying about having to get it right the first time. I strive to do that with my blog posts and online articles. Most of the time, I’m able to pull it off but, alas, to err is human, right?
If you are involved in distributing news or opinion through electronic publishing, are you being as careful as you should be to make sure everything is factually correct but also that simple mistakes like typos are addressed? In a job I had years ago, there was an employee who handled graphics in our department. She was very good at what she did, but she was a stickler for editing, proofreading and double-checking everything to death. I once heard her described by a colleague as being “paralyzed by perfection.” So, obviously, there is a happy medium. Don’t ever be afraid to release something because you need to check it over “just one more time.” But maybe slow down a little and think about how you’d handle that piece of writing if it were going to be printed and mailed — with no chance for editing or retraction once it’s out the door.
Perhaps those who have never produced a printed publication are reading this and thinking it’s a stressful job and they’d rather have the joy of knowing they can simply go back and edit or update their writing within seconds. I’m sure editors like Kevin Heslin might envy you in some ways. But you should envy him, too. Holding a finished product in your hand is a wonderfully proud moment. It’s The Joy of Print, and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever be brought that experience by electronic publishing.
(Photo courtesy of Longzero’s Flickr feed.)