Angelica Dass photo project I HAVE NOT POSTED HERE (A Discriminating Voice) for 3 years and while not many people have noticed my absence—I have yet to build a following that could actually be recognized as traffic—I have felt the loss. So out of nowhere, in a burst of new inspiration, today I am writing here again, and vow to myself at least to get back into the writing groove.

Coincidentally, it’s been 3 years since I started working at Mother Jones, a magazine job that I like very much and a place I am very proud to work. Great journalism surrounds me and I work with creative, smart people every day. I do not write for the magazine, though I always feel pleased when people make that assumption, I am part of the creative team and manage the production process. I have held similar positions at other publications over the last twenty-five years. You can imagine how the job has changed over 3 decades and that is one of the topics that I intend to turn to in these posts from time to time. How did I get here? What did I learn along the way? What has gotten better for me and what has gotten left behind that perhaps we may not actually want to lose?

As a production director, I have learned each new technology advancement, suffered through software upgrades, and diligently mastered each new creative tool that has saved the publisher time and money. Learning to adapt has been an important part of my career survival, but my role has also been surprisingly very consistent. I help facilitate the creative process and guide a dedicated team, who put words and pictures together on pages into a book, a print magazine that is distributed to hundreds of thousands of readers. Others write and design, but I handle much that is not visible so that a very talented team can pull off an amazing collaborative effort. I organize for a smooth workflow, undertake the prepress tasks, link the technical and mechanical underpinnings of printing on web presses with process colors, on publication paper, to be bound together so that all of us can do it over again, next issue. And of course it is not just a print magazine anymore, in fact, it hasn’t really been a “just” for some time now. The complexity of producing content for today’s readers and viewers has increased, precisely as the tools and technologies have increased the capacity of even one individual (me) to accomplish and control much much more, and do so, much faster than ever before.

One of my favorite opportunities on the job is to participate in the training of the half dozen editorial interns that join Mother Jones twice a year for a 6 month term. In one hour I try to explain the breadth of duties and skills that are now condensed into my job to give context to the process that at the beginning of my career required at least 5 people and countless others from third-party vendors. Not all of the jobs lost in our economy have been to globalization, clearly many have been lost to the productivity of new technology.

I always get something back from the effort to share what I know, to be able to demonstrate a little about the miracle that is the printing process, and reveal some of the science behind four-color reproduction and the other almost lost skilled crafts. I feel satisfaction when I help those new to the industry learn something about the history of our industry.  After my last presentation, I heard back from Azeen Ghorayshi, one of our very talented interns, who was invited to stay on for some additional time as a fellow, and is now handling a number of Mother Jones‘ social media roles, shared this Tumblr page with me, that I, in turn, want to share with you (my so-called traffic.) It is startling, this new use of Pantone color. Angelica Dass, from Rio de Janeiro beautifully displays her photographic images in a project “to record and catalog all possible human skin tones.” Her Tumblr page is, not surprisingly, called humanae. The project brings humanity into closer focus. Indeed, that is exactly the goal I wish to achieve with my own writing projects.