From 2008-2009, I was the staff writer for an organization who provided care for at-risk youth. The ambiguous job title of “staff writer” was a catch-all for anything that involved writing, such as our marketing materials, website content, and the series of workbooks we developed for our kids. Everyone joked, however, that I was the “newsletter” guy because they were one of our primary marketing tools, and the company CEO had a thing for them.
When I inherited the position of staff writer, the company had already been printing the newsletters for a number of years. So, they had a template from which I could work, but most of my predecessors weren’t editors or didn’t have much experience creating print-ready documents. There was a lot of fine-tuning I had to do to the existing template (to make them uniform and ready for print), but that was the easy part.
What I found to be most difficult was actually getting the content for each newsletter. At the time, we had four main academies that were each supposed to produce a quarterly, 8-page newsletter. One of those pages would be provided by the corporate office (me), and the back page was essentially the mailing information, so they had to provide six pages worth of content every three months. Unfortunately for me, the people who were assigned to develop the content were not literature majors back in college or professional photographers. They were people devoted to working with at-risk youth (administrative people included). That’s a great thing, but often I wound up receiving “finished” articles that were nothing more than rough first drafts, as well as accompanying photos that were low-resolution and probably taken with an old flip-phone. I would often receive all of the material at the eleventh hour and then I’d have to scramble to rewrite everything and/or massage the photos enough in Photoshop so that they could be printable. Sometimes a facility would start out strong only to falter in the end. They’d submit to me 85% of the work a few weeks into the new quarter, but then leave out an article or two until a week after we were supposed to send the document to the printer. The newsletters became my nemesis during my tenure as the staff writer. However, my frustrations with the process were probably the same as any editor in the history of publishing. In spite of the oftentimes stressful experience, I did learn a ton of lessons about writing, photography, editing, design, and collaboration.