A Prophylactic 'Good Job'
"Stephen," Jaime asked, "Do we have any hi-res images of audio gear?"
"Sure," I said, "Is there anything in particular that you're looking for?"
"Loudspeakers, I guess. I have to create a house ad. Immediately."
"No problem. I recently collected a bunch of images for our Buyer's Guide. If you go on our server, you'll find them in my folder, all grouped into specific categories."
Collecting those images had been a lot of fun. Much more fun than verifying web addresses. First, I dove into our archives and selected my favorite images of all those we'd obtained from manufacturers some we'd used in reviews, some we'd omitted beginning with our January 2006 issue and moving forward. Then I dug through our filing cabinets for the best-looking press kits and shuffled through the discs we'd received from PR companies. "Eureka!" I said. I oohed, I ahhed, I shook my head and went "What the?" knowing that my choices would influence the overall look and feel brought to life by our art director, Natalie Baca.
These will be the images that our readers find alongside Art's wonderful essays. These will be the images that help make the book look beautiful. Does this photo of an elephant lurking in the shadows of an integrated amp make sense? I wondered. I felt like a photo editor or something.
"Wait a second, Jaime," I said.
"What's up?" she asked.
"Where's this house ad going to appear?" I wanted to know.
"In the next issue of Stereophile as well as in the Buyer's Guide.
"Hmm," I said, "I think I've got something better for you to use."
Sitting on my desk were the final proofs of the lovely booklet to be included with our upcoming Diabelli Variations CD. I pointed to it.
Getting that booklet created in addition to having the actual music discs pressed was more fun than verifying web addresses, but less fun than collecting pretty images. It meant working with production managers and sales reps at Shorewood Packaging to come up with the best solutions and prices for what we wanted to achieve: a very handsome twelve-page, four-color booklet, also brought to life by Natalie. It meant coordinating with customer service reps at JVC to ensure that the print materials would arrive in chorus with the production of the music discs. Furthermore, everything would look as it should (proofed and re-proofed), sound as it should (we're crossing our fingers on this one), be packaged appropriately, and ship to the correct locations. We are almost there. I felt like a project manager or something.
"Our new disc is going to be on sale soon. It ships to our fulfillment company next week. It'd be great if the house ad could announce its availability," I said.
"Yeah, let's do that," Jaime replied.
"I'll ask John if he's got an image of the booklet cover."
On cue, John walked into my office. "We were just going over to talk to you, John."
John gave us a look that said, "Oh?"
"Jaime needs to create a house ad which will appear in the next issue of Stereophile as well as in the Buyer's Guide. Would it be alright if the ad announced the Diabelli Variations disc?"
"Sure," said JA, "I'll put a file of the image in your folder, Jaime, and Stephen can come up with some text for the ad."
"Cool," I said.
"I could do it myself," John said, "but I'm happier to delegate."
I nodded eagerly, feeling that John had just given me a great compliment. Coming up with text for the ad was fun. Like most things in life, it was more fun than verifying web addresses. I went back to our May issue and scanned the article for some catchy phrases. I was looking for things like "fascinating," or "shocking," or "holy crap, this is great!" Stuff like that, I knew would work. After flipping through pages, visiting a website, and chopping up sentences, I ended up with this:
The FINEST HOUR of PIANO MUSIC in the WORLD
a beautiful union of extraordinary pianism and ground-breaking technology
Robert Silverman's performance of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations
captured by John Atkinson
using Ray Kimber's IsoMike technology
When I was all done, I felt myself hoping that people would want to buy it. I felt like a marketing guy or something.
Sometimes, I wonder: What, exactly, is my job?
If I become really confused, I can narrow it down to: Making My Boss' Job Easier. Which, it seems to me, is a good, if modest, raison d'etre, one perhaps made less modest by the strength of my respect and admiration for my boss. But, still: Is it healthy to form your own personal purpose around that of another? One has to ask.
I've already got an answer for this, in case you couldn't tell.
Later on, as I filed copies of invoices, I heard myself wondering: "Is this what it's like to be an editor?" And then, as I kept filing copies of invoices, I thought of some of the other things that John Atkinson is so great at little things like: cutting lines of text so that an article will fit perfectly on its page, estimating the number of total pages in a book, adding up thirds and sixths and halves and creating runsheets and stuff. All of those things which make everyone else's job easier.
Right now, I'm feeling like a writer.
"Good job, Stephen," JA says.
"What did I do?"
"I don't know," he shrugs. "That was just a prophylactic 'good job.'"
"Thanks," I say.