Hey Ben, You’re on the Cover
I went back to the printing plant last evening to see the May-June cover on press and take some more pictures. By the time I got there, they had already printed several thousand covers and were stacking them onto pallets to go off to the bindery. But a few thousand is a drop in the bucket—we print something like 125,000 copies of the magazine, so the cover press will keep running for several hours.
Our May-June cover story, by the way, is a feature-length Q&A with Ben Feller ’92, the White House correspondent for the Associated Press. (Senior editor Ryan Jones went down to D.C. back in February to interview Ben for that piece and to see what the press digs in the White House are like.) We had struggled to decide whether to put Ben on the cover or go with one of the other features—we were divided as a staff as to which would make the stronger cover. That’s the subject of a whole other blog posting sometime. In the end we thought readers would respond best to the Ben Feller cover.
Meanwhile, over on another press, yet another signature (a collection of pages, all on one big sheet) from the interior of the magazine was printing, so our customer-service rep and I strolled over to see that. This time I used the camera’s built-in flash in an attempt to “freeze” the pages as they flew by. If you look closely (or click on the photo to see it bigger), you can see that a page of Pulse, some pages from Class Notes and In Memoriam, an ad or two, and a page of Sports are all ganged together on one sheet. Later they get folded and cut, and magically everything comes out right-side up and in the correct order. It’s like origami or something.
By the time I left, some guys were setting up the bindery to stitch the magazine together, although the stitching probably won’t happen until this evening, last I heard. That’s a whole other process that’s very complicated and that I only vaguely understand. A machine puts the pages in order, staples the magazines, trims them, ink-jets the names and addresses onto the back covers, stacks the copies, and puts the stacks into bundles organized by zip code and down to the mail carrier’s house-to-house walking path. It’s all very high-tech.
The last photo shows stacks of Penn Stater signatures ready to go on the stitcher—even as thousands more Penn Stater signatures are still being printed in another part of the plant. The stitching assembly line, and the guys setting it up, are in the background.
By Thursday or Friday of this week, readers will start getting their copies of the May-June issue. The farther away you live from Strasburg, Va., the longer it’ll take for the magazine to get to you. So if you’re in, say, California or Florida, give it a week or so.
Tina Hay, editor