WM and The Craft and Joy of Printing

Quad/Graphics’ pressman and lead operator Rick Austin holds the cover of the Fall 2013 issue of Wabash Magazine at the console of one of the plant’s presses.

Steve Charles—Just received this photo from Mike Moxley, our consultant at Maury Boyd and Associates who shepherds Wabash Magazine through the final printing process at Quad/Graphics in Midland, MI.

The guy holding the cover of the latest issue is Rick Austin, lead operator of the press that printed it. Mike and Rick knew we wanted the Wabash College seal on that facsimile of the program from President Hess’s inauguration program to look as much like the original 3-D embossed image as possible. Embossing 13,000 issues would have been an unforgivable expense, but we hope readers will, at first glance, think that seal is real. Rick is smiling because he thinks they will.

I’ve stood with Rick at that console many times during my own press checks for the magazine. I’ve watched him meticulously dial in the colors, seen him match photos across signatures that I feared would never match, wondered at his skill and dedication printing the stories and images of this College he’s never seen except through those pages. He’s printed at least a portion of every Wabash Magazine that’s been printed in Midland. Those pages have made him a Wabash fan, too. (Mike’s email included this message from Rick: “Tell Steve I’m glad we get to keep the Bell for another year.”)

Seeing our cover in the hands of perhaps the only guy in Midland who cares about the Monon Bell Game made me grateful once again for the printed page—not only for the product and the tactile pleasure of holding something real in your hands when so much of what we read disappears when the electricity is off, but also the process.

By the time you receive this latest issue and read Tyler Burke’s first person account of one of the greatest comebacks in Wabash history or Tara and Glen Elrod’s moving piece about their work in Haiti, each story will have gone through hands of the writers, myself and any co-editors for that particular issue, copyeditor Cheri Clark (whose son is a Wabash freshman), three proofreaders in house, and one external proofreader. The photos have been selected by photo editor Kim Johnson and sent to art directors Cathy Swick and Becky Otte. All 96 pages they have designed, laid out, and illustrated over several weeks have been proofed and reproofed. Digital files have been sent to Midland and prepared for the press, then reviewed online by the editor and art director. Final corrections have been made and printing begun on two immense web presses, each run by a lead operator and several other pressmen over a couple of shifts. Pages have been trimmed and bound on another line and issues have been delivered to the post office.

The edition with your name on it (I can’t forget Heather Bazzani and Doug  Brinkerhoff, who prepare the mailing lists) should reach your mailbox by next week. And that list doesn’t get to the post office, and dozens of other steps don’t get completed, without Susan Casalini of Maury Boyd, who coordinates the entire production process and keeps it all moving.

The Web is a great communication tool, but there’s something about the collaboration and craft of print—all the connections between so many people who have to do their jobs so well to make a book or magazine—that I find exponentially more rewarding and joyful. Each step opens up the potential for error, yes. But at each step another person brings his or her own creativity and ideas, attention to detail, perspective, artful eye, and skill to the finished product.

At the very beginning of the process, as I gather stories and images for each issue of WM, I always envision the finished piece. Thanks to these people and this creative process over the past 18 years, it’s always better than I could have imagined.