Starting and Running a Magazine

by Jordan Hylden, Harvard ’06

Jordan Hylden was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Harvard’s Ichthus.

Start the Presses!

Putting It All together, Moving It All Out

If, young grasshopper, you have reached the lofty citadel of Step 8, it means that, for all intents and purposes, you have created a magazine. Pat yourself on the back. It took a lot of work to get here. Now, all you have to do is get it into the hands of your eager readers.

Publication week is the busiest time of year. Expect to spend a lot of time editing, cutting, pasting, and compiling. Basically, this takes more elbow grease than finesse, but there are a few things I learned along the way.

Start by assuming that things will not go as planned. Expect that articles will not work out, computers will go on the fritz, deadlines will be missed, and printers will be late. Then, before any of that actually happens, plan for it. If you need four articles for your front section, ask for five or six. If you absolutely, positively need your articles in by November 15, tell everyone that the deadline is November 8. If you need the printers to get the issues to you by December 1, say that you need them by November 23.

Obsessively back up all of your work, assuming that the hard drive will crash. Never once have I published an issue without one or more of these things happening. I learned to simply expect that everything will go wrong, and to plan accordingly. That way, if things go horribly haywire—I take that back—when things go haywire, you’ll be on top of it. Nothing that happens during this week is particularly difficult; it’s just that there’s so much of it, and that it’s unpredictable.

You have to get the articles and the advertisements in, you have to edit them, you have to lay them out on the computer, you have to put them online, you have to get them to the printer’s, you have to get them back, and you have to distribute them across campus. Easy to understand, but easier said than done. Everyone on staff has to know that this week is exceptionally important, and that they have to be accountable for their responsibilities. I actually enjoyed it, in a weird sort of way. Seeing it all come together, after so much time and effort, is wonderfully satisfying. And, when it’s all done, seeing people reading and discussing your magazine in the dining hall over lunch is… well, it makes it all worthwhile.

The actual distribution isn’t too difficult, but the logistics of it will depend upon your campus. If everyone lives in the dorms, then it’s easy: just door-drop to everyone, and maybe put a few extra in faculty lounges and dining halls. Ask the library to stock an issue or two in the reading room. If you’re trying to distribute to a largely off-campus student population, then things are more difficult. Do whatever it is that the campus newspaper does. There are probably designated drop-off points, which you should of course use. But be creative, too. If you think you can avoid pesky janitors, drop some off in high-traffic areas, like the exercise room at the gym.

There’s really no one-size fits all strategy for distribution: just use your head and do what you can. As for the actual grunt work of distribution, Christians have a built-in advantage: we belong to churches and fellowships! If you’ve done your jobs up to this point, the Christian students on campus will be excited about the new magazine, and will be more than happy to schlepp around distributing to the dorms and drop-off points. Always remember that email list-servs are your friends. Don’t hesitate to call in favors from friends, either. Oh, and of course: staff members are pretty much obligated to help out, and staff members have roommates and friends that they can drag along. Publicity during this week is key. Use every weapon in your arsenal to trumpet to the world: We have a magazine, it’s coming out this week, and it’s gonna be great. Spam all sorts of email lists. Make enthusiastic announcements, well in advance and frequently, to churches and fellowships. Put up flyers on billboards. Set up public debates about article topics with the Secular Society. Publish op-eds in the campus newspaper. Do whatever you need to do—just sell! Sell! Sell! And… that pretty much does it! You and your crack team of editors, writers, and number-crunchers have put together a magazine of your very own. You can be proud of yourselves. You deserve a break, and you deserve to celebrate. In fact, I recommend it! Go and celebrate somewhere with your staff. Have a party. Of course, you won’t be able to relax for too long, because you’ll be too curious to hear what everyone thinks of the first issue.

Next step: Ears to the Ground.