How to prepare for publication failure

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September 2, 2008 by 8junebugs

I saw a job announcement come through a listserv today, and it’s a prime example of how, unfortunately, communications staff are misunderstood, misplaced, and misrepresented:

Production editor
Association seeks production editor to take lead responsibility for page layout and design of daily and weekly newsletters and handle copyediting, fact-checking and layout preparation for four-color magazine. Work with art director to develop and obtain artwork to accompany magazine articles.
Manage
classified advertising program
for print and online placements. Applicants should have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in journalism and two years of related job experience, excellent verbal and written communication skills, exceptional customer service skills, the ability to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously without close supervision, and a positive attitude.  Requires proficiency with InDesign  and familiarity with Photoshop. Requires understanding of publication page layout principles and strong command of English language, including spelling, grammar, punctuation and Associated Press style

In a strong communications department, what you see here would be at least three separate jobs. There are budget cuts and nonprofit priorities behind a position like this — as much as I understand flattened organizations in today’s economy (and inside the Beltway), this is at least 80 hours of work a week in three separate but related disciplines: editorial, design, and sales/marketing.

Friends, if you ever wonder why publications professionals get burned out and leave after a year or two, remember this post.

I blame Micros0ft — with Office (Word, Publisher, FrontPage, in particular) in every…office, it seems like anyone could do editing, design, AND ad sales in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it? Quality publications take qualified professionals, though, just like any other product or project.

I’d also bet that the salary for this job is under $50K, if not under $40K. Funny how little the corporate face of an association or company can be worth, no?

What’s scary is that I’m qualified for a job like this; I started working professionally and broke into my career early enough that my mix of skills and expertise and industry contacts would suit their needs.

It also qualifies me to consult with them about how not to build a communications team doomed for burnout and failure. I wish them the best of luck — most of the people I know who have these skills have learned to either not Do It All Themselves or to charge an arm, a leg, and both pinky toes for their services.

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