Although Pitt Magazine is published only four times a year, the magazines staff faces the nemesis of most writers and editorsdeadlines. There are first-draft deadlines, editing deadlines, fact-checking deadlines, proofreading deadlines, design deadlines, printing deadlines, just to name a few.
This ongoing deadline pressure certainly doesnt foster an atmosphere of contemplation for evaluating what we do well and what we could do better. Consequently, in order to find time for some self-analysis, I scheduled a one-day Pitt Magazine staff retreat and asked everyone to bring only opinions and ideas.
In preparation for the no-deadline day, I wanted to have some ideas to bring along, so I went in search of them during a Thursday lunch hour. My quest took me to Barnes and Noble in the nearby Squirrel Hill neighborhood. I went directly to the second-floor magazine racks to buy some ideas. I chose plenty. Vanity Fair, Fast Company, Esquire, Smart Money, GQ, Details, the New Yorker, the Atlantic. Content with my haul, I started to walk to the downstairs front register. Then, I saw the sign.
Sophisticates available upon request behind front register.
I decided to purchase Playboy, too. After all, there is much more to that magazine than the pictures.
When I arrived at the front register, I stood in a single-file line of customers waiting patiently for one of the two working cashiers. After a minute or two it was my turn. I handed the young woman my stash of magazines and, in my brave post-adolescent voice, told her that I wanted to purchase the current issue of Playboy. She scurried to the end of the counter and stooped out of sight. I waited for her to resurface. And waited. And waited. Finally, I heard her voice, but she wasnt talking to me.
Can you help me find Playboy?
The other cashier walked over and soon she stooped out of sight, too. With no one at the registers, the checkout line quickly grew. I glanced back at the faces in line. I saw a mass of disapproving moms and grandmas looking back at me. I began to feel like I was in a Woody Allen movie.
Suddenly the two cashiers surfacedempty-handed. Im sorry, the cashier said to me. We seem to be sold out of the current issue of Playboy.
Thats fine, I told her, wishing she didnt talk so loud.
We do have their special lingerie issue, would you care for that?
No, no. Thats fine.
Are there any other adult magazines you would like?
No. Im fine, really.
Sheepishly, I paid for my magazines and left the store, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone. I refused to let Pitt Magazine suffer from my timidity, though. I went to a nearby newsstand on Forbes Avenue and got my Playboy, along with the New York Times magazine.
Afterwards, I critiqued everything, including Playboy, and garnered several good ideas. I also reached two general conclusions: We do a lot of things right at Pitt Magazine and we can improve. Those two findings are not unlike what the first University-wide accreditation review in a decade had to say about Pitt (page 18). In the months and years ahead I expect that the magazine, like the University, will undergo changes deemed necessary in the never-ending pursuit of excellence. (However, dont expect Pitt centerfolds anytime soon.)
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