…Not You Anymore

One of my all-time favorite Dilbert cartoons...

Penton Media announced it will discontinue publishing AMERICAN PRINTER effective as of the August issue. It was an old publication–founded in 1883–but unfortunately not a profitable one in recent years. I worked on the publication for 14 years–it was a wonderful job.

Please note my Penton/AMERICAN PRINTER e-mail will be terminated as of this Friday. Please contact me via kmayobrien [at] comcast.net.

Here is one of my favorite editorials:

The greatest thing since sliced bread

Oct 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Katherine O’Brien

My Bostonian grandfather, James L. O’Brien, was born in 1895 and died in 1992. He often reflected on the changes he had seen in his lifetime. “We didn’t have electricity,” he would say. “There was no radio, no television and no automobiles or airplanes.”

After my grandmother died, my grandfather got a microwave oven which he insisted on demonstrating for my sister and me. “Look at that,” he said, putting placing a piece of Wonder bread inside of it. “You just put something in there and in a minute or two it’s hot. Isn’t that marvelous?” He then handed me the warm, mushy bread.

“Yessirree,” I said. “Warm bread! Great!” It became a running joke between my sister and me. If one of us suggested getting something to eat, the other would say: “Hey, how about some of that great warm bread?”

As I have gotten older, however, I am slowly turning into my grandfather. I don’t have big tufts of hair sprouting from my ears yet, but I often find myself telling disbelieving younger colleagues about the olden days of magazine production. “We didn’t have computers,” I say, inwardly wondering how my voice has assumed the quavering timbre associated with Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man” or Cicely Tyson in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” “Everything had to be typed. There was a big slab of white wax for paste-up work. There was no e-mail, no Internet and no in-house scanners. We had to use a camera that was as big as a Howitzer.”

At this point, my audience, which has been discreetly backing away, typically drops all semblance of tact and flees for the safety of their own desks. “Everything was in black-and-white!” I yell at their retreating backs. “Color was only for really special occasions! It was like the ‘Wizard of Oz!’”
Mastering the graphic arts

But now, thanks to Dean Lem Assoc. (Maui, HI), I have irrefutable proof of how easy editors have it today. Dean Lem sent me “Graphics Master 8,” billed as a “one-volume library and workbook of planning aids, reference guides and graphic tools for the design, estimating and preparation and production of typograpy, prepress imaging, printing, print advertising and Internet publishing.”

Seeing this book with Ben Franklin’s solemn mug on the cover and its Wire-O double-wire mechanical binding brought back many memories. I still have “Graphics Master 3.” Published in 1983, it covered all the basics: typography, typesetting, phototypesetting, printing processes, halftone screening, papers, binding and finishing.

It also featured two tools that were the bane of my existence: the proportional scale and the line gauge/ruler. In my unskilled hands, the proportional scale became the Wheel of Distortion. Every month, I would spin it and hope for the best. The results could be awful, especially when sizing headshots for the “People in the News” page. Some people’s photos were reproduced as tiny, pencil-eraser sized blurs, while others ended up with huge playing-card size portraits.

Editors of the pre-desktop publishing era also were expected to be designers. Many of us relied on two all-purpose layouts: bad and worse. It was a truly ugly time in the publishing world.
We still need the fundamentals

Most editors were colossal failures as designers. But we’d better try to teach today’s designers all we can about printing. As Lem says in his forward: “The need for fundamental prepress and pre-Web planning and preparation still exists. It is the common ground on which the designer, Internet developer and printer must meet.”

I’m glad I had a chance to learn magazine production the old-fashioned way. But I have to admit it — desktop publishing is the greatest thing since warm, sliced bread.

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4 thoughts on “…Not You Anymore

  1. Elaine says:

    Katherine, Your capacity to find humor and reflect positively on your work, under tough circumstances, is truly inspiring.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Just like younto find humor with this news. What are your plans ?

  3. njbookwoman says:

    funny post – love your sense of humor, but sorry you are laid off. Hope it was a good package, so you have time to re-consider what you want to do next. Good luck.

  4. katherinembc says:

    Thanks ladies
    I don’t have any definite plans but several inquiries, so that is a positive. Will keep you posted.
    Rock on

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