Dec 102005

A change happened at work a couple of weeks ago.

After college, I sent letters to 20-30 different magazines looking for a job. I had a degree in Math/Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and I wanted a way to combine my love of publishing with my love of technology. I had worked at the school newspaper; for two years, I was the Managing Editor (M.E.). At The Tartan, the M.E. reported to the Editor-in-Chief. As M.E., I focused on administration and production-related matters.

I ended up interviewing with five different publishing companies. At Time Inc., I interviewed with both Sports Illustrated and People magazine. I was lucky enough to get offers from both titles; I chose to work at Sports Illustrated. I had subscribed all through college, and it has always been a favorite title of mine. The masthead and cover of the magazine where I first was listed is framed in a prominent place in my apartment.

That was over ten years ago, and my role has evolved. I am fortunate in that I have been promoted several times in my tenure here, and I have been given increasing responsibilities. I invest a lot in my work, and I believe I have had more good experiences than bad. Sports Illustrated is not only the finest sports magazine in the world, but also one of the finest publications of any kind. The people who work here are passionate about sports and quality journalism. Not to mention making a very large amount of money without compromising our principles!

Until a couple of weeks ago my department reported to both Sports Illustrated and the corporate Information Technology department. It was a nice fit–I had two “families;” one in SI and one in IT. At the same time, I worked on several projects that cut across many magazines. I started to wonder how I could contribute to other magazines at Time Inc., and I developed a proposal for my boss’s Information Technology boss.

My proposal focused on the following idea: that Time Inc. had an opportunity to improve the communication of technical knowledge between editorial groups. This would save time and money by allowing us to work more effectively and avoiding duplication of work. For example, if People solved a technical problem, it would be great if Time could leverage that information. At the same time, I wasn’t proposing a replacement for the technical departments at each magazine. I believe that the major magazines will always run into problems that are unique to their title. SI may never have a need for a satellite phone in Iraq; Time may never need to transmit thousands of photos from a sporting event in one night.

I talked with many people before presenting my proposal to my boss’s Information Technology boss. I had mixed feeling about the presentation–if it was accepted, it could have meant not working for Sports Illustrated in the future. I think my presentation went as well as it could. Before I could follow up on my proposal, a dramatic change occurred.

A couple of weeks ago, in a meeting attended by my department, my boss’s SI and Information Technology bosses, and the head of Human Resources for Information Technology, we were told that we would no longer be reporting directly to SI. This was confirmed by a memo from senior Time Inc. management to all Time Inc. staff the following week. The memo phrases it better than I can: “[…] the technology operations at our New York based magazines will become part of the Information Technology Division. Practically speaking, this means that the technology leaders and their teams at these magazines will now report into [the Deputy CIO] while retaining a ‘dotted line’ relationship with the magazines.”

It’s unclear what these changes mean to my position. One immediate change is that I have a bit more flexibility to work on projects not directly related to Sports Illustrated. Of course, I have many unanswered questions:
Can I still tell people I work at SI?
Will I work at sporting events again?
Will my schedule be guided by sporting events?
Will I be as involved with the production of magazines?
Of course, I am concerned about ramifications beyond my own personal concerns, but I don’t really want to write about them in this forum.

I don’t think I have articulated the enormity of this change for me. While I also have reported to Information Technology for the past five or six years, I still feel that I have had a real role in producing the magazine. A good example of this happened during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was scanning the wire services and looking at photos. I spotted a truly amazing photo by John Rowland of The Lafayette Daily on the AP wire. I picked up the phone, called the photo editor working on the story, and described the photo I spotted. It was shown at the color show, and the editors decided to run it in the magazine. Of course, finding this photo is not part of my job, and I hope that a photo editor would have picked up this photo. However, I saw the photo, and I was able to suggest it to the photo editor. Working on a magazine, everyone pitches in regardless of their position. No matter who you are, if you see a problem you are supposed to raise your voice. Heck–we have even had problems spotted by pressman as our magazine has printed! I would miss this level of involvement.

I am concerned about cultural conflicts. I was talking with a magazine technologist who has also worked in several corporate technology departments. He made a comment in a derisive manner of the nature, “Can you believe the techs at [news magazine]? They actually think they’re journalists!” I was a bit shocked by his comment as I also think of myself as a journalist!. I would think that any technologist at Time Inc. who supports editorial systems as a journalist. I don’t think of it as an extra privilege; I think it is an added responsibility to act in an ethical manner. There is a cost when I accept press credentials to work at an event. I’m not just representing myself; I’m representing Sports Illustrated and journalism as a whole. I totally understand and respect how the techs at [news magazine] feel.

As I mentioned, there have been very few changes to my job right now. Moving forward, I hope that we can produce even better publications at Time Inc. and Sports Illustrated while reducing costs and increasing revenue. I am curious to see if and how my role at Time Inc. changes.

 Posted by at 6:18 pm

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