Today was our pagination day. For the unitiated, pagination is where a magazine's content- ads and articles- gets chopped, sliced, diced, minced and put back together like a jigsaw puzzle pieced together by Helen Keller. We do this so that every page can be measured and so that the current issue's advertisements will fit into the magazine. During the pagination process a magazine's editorial staff will sometimes end up with more pages than expected- usually, however, editorial ends up getting cut in order to make room for our meal-tickets. It's like "the chicken and the egg" paradox: you can't have a magazine without editorial; you can't have a magazine without ads; ads kill editorial space; editorials kill ad space- which is the most important and easiest to sacrifice? Neither- and both (but the ad teams usually get their way because, let's face it, "money talks"....)
So all this weekend I, the Chief Editor, had to write the main feature article myself (our writer backed out at the last minute... typical), corral the last "floating" articles, track down the articles already written which hadn't been turned in and find art (photos) for most everything that wasn't an advert. This is what an editor does... and then some.
And I do this while also working as a bouncer at a strip club, to supplement my income until the magazine takes off and it can afford to keep me in the office full-time. Friday night, while at the club, I got bit on the neck by a spider. Dunno what kind, but it felt that my carotid artery might be a nice snack... it's long-dead now, but it did a nice job of putting me into a semi-coma for two days. I slept for 24 hours straight, no eating, smoking, bathroom visits... nada for a full planetary cycle. I woke up having missed, effectively, not one but two days of editorial time- I was behind schedule and over the deadline. So I spent Sunday in front of my laptop and working like a mad-man until I got everything I possibly could sent off to our layout designer.
I awoke today, Monday, and called my publisher to let him know that everything was in and that I would be in the office early to prepare for the pagination (BTW, pagination isn't something the editor is normally in on, but it's something I should bear witness to, so that I can know what I'm up against as an editor). My publisher informed me, promptly, that he knew the content was in, that he'd spent four hours in the wee moments of the morning on the phone with the layout designer while I was asleep, cutting editorial and articles from the magazine.
Cutting articles and editorial before pagination isn't really a problem- it's to be expected, SOP. I wasn't pissed about losing content. I was pissed, however, that they hadn't bothered to consult with me. If they had, four hours could have been cut down to ten minutes, easy. Who knows the content better than the editor, right? But I didn't get to say this. I was told to get to the office ASAP and prep for the pagination.
So I did.
And I sat around for awhile, discussing possible ideas for next month's issue, what more was needed from Editorial before we send to print and waiting for the Big Bleed- pagination. When the appointed hour finally came, I listened intently and answered questions when asked. I made a joke or two and offered some suggestions here and there to the layout designer about our departments. I figured that it had gone rather well. It took us 4 hours and we managed to be left with a page or two of "holes" that we can fill either with ads or editorial content. Pagination usually takes most magazines upwards of 8 hours- we worked efficiently and were prepared.
Later I was informed that I was putting my job in jeopardy. The joke had apparently not been understood and my umbrage at not being consulted in the cuts was mistaken for personal outrage. My publisher was calling me out on the red carpet, not even letting me get a word in edge-wise. "Just LISTEN, JAY! You NEVER listen to me! I've been doing this for-"
I put my hand up. "Stop," I said calmly. He stopped in mid-sentence, a look of barely contained anger wallowing behind his eyes. "I HAVE listened. How could I not? You've repeated the same things to me for a month solid now. I could probably recite it for rote if you asked me to. Listen, I'm no idiot, despite the fact that I'm new to this job. You're right that I've never done this before. But you're also wrong. You think I haven't edited stories, spent hours and sometimes DAYS on something as simple as a paragraph or a WORD? You think I don't appreciate the intricacies of finance and advertising? You don't know that, ten years ago, I was being groomed to work for an ad agency, do you? I'm going to put this as succinctly as possible, boss: my first, last and ONLY concern is this magazine. I feel safe in assuming that we ALL want to put out a quality publication, right? Well, what kind of editor would I be if I didn't speak my mind and offer my honest opinion on matters that concern the editorial department? What kind of employee would I be if I didn't offer alternatives to the boss, on the off chance that he might not know my job as well as he knows his own? I'm here to work WITH you guys, not against you. So PLEASE stop trying to make me look like the bad guy here. I'm on the same team and I want the same things as you. Always have."
"Then why did you have so much content last night? We spent WAY too much time going through it all. You overshot your mark by a MILE and you've still got more coming in!"
I shrugged. "I seem to recall you saying, at the very beginning, that more content is better than less and that, if we have more, that gives us the flexibility to cut what's unnecessary when pagination comes along. I've done what you told me to do. No more and no less."
He chewed on that, repeated some of it back, like he was mentally looking for holes in it, sat back and said, "Damn. You're right. I did say that, didn't I?"
I smiled. "Need I remind you that I'm no idiot?"
He laughed and then brought up his indignation at the joke I'd made in the meeting ("Bark! Bark! Bark! I'm a lap-dog! Bark!"). "I'm no lap-dog, Jay."
I laughed softly. "Boss, I didn't mean to imply that you are, that was a JOKE. Listen, you don't know me that well, but ____ (his partner, who was sitting in on this conversation and was responsible for bringing me in as the editor) does. He can attest to the fact that I don't make jokes often, but when I do, it's pretty obvious. Even HE laughed when I'd made the joke." I looked over at ____.
He nodded. "He's right. I did. I thought it was ironic as hell AND funny and I didn't take it seriously at all. You were justifiably bothered, but Jay makes jokes about as often as the Pope farts downwind to the pulpit. You'll get an ear for it soon enough."
My publisher regarded this for a moment and then shrugged it off. "Well... all I'm trying to say is that, in order for this magazine to survive, we MUST have open communication."
"EXACTLY!" I replied enthusiastically.
"That's why, in the future, you should feel free to consult with me on editorial cuts, even if I AM asleep and it's three in the morning. You certainly don't pay me for my good looks. Make use of my skills when you need them. That's what you hired me for."
After that it was all downhill. I'm still the editor (with a capital E) and our premier issue is still due to launch on schedule.
....and now comes the September issue...