This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Katherine Peach 00:00
So there's this character in Euphoria who’s the sister, what’s her name?
Tobias Lentz 00:03
Katherine Peach 00:04
Lexi. And she creates a play and ends up running the play and she turns into this brilliant tyrant talking to everybody, making people cry, but also like saying the exact thing that needs to happen. And then at one point, she just is like, walking through this backstage and she goes, I fucking love the theater. I was like, oh my god, like Michaela, like she was born for this. So funny.
Katherine Peach 00:45
So what is our spiel? Welcome to the BackMatter Magazine podcast.
Tobias Lentz 00:51
That sure is our spiel.
Katherine Peach 00:52
That is our spiel. My name is Katherine Peach, I am a podcast.
Katherine Peach 01:04
Who am I?
Tobias Lentz 01:06
Who am I in this world? That’s episode one. Want to start again, or?
Katherine Peach 01:15
Well, my name is Katherine Peach. I’m a co-host, podcast co-Editor, and also an Associate Editor for the print publication.
Tobias Lentz 01:25
Which just got handed in today; we just got the proof. So that’s exciting. I am Tobias, if you don’t already know that. You probably know that by now, if you’ve listened this long. And I’m also co-Producer, co-Editor, all those fancy words that Katherine just listed. This is our last episode for the podcast.
Katherine Peach 01:55
Tobias Lentz 01:57
Very sad. *sniffles*
Katherine Peach 02:04
Well, this is the end of the semester, almost. And so we committed to four, I think we’re going to hit that goal, which is very exciting. And so for this theme, to pull from Lewis Carroll, even though I want to acknowledge that I continued to say CS Lewis in the first two episodes, which is very embarrassing, but Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, and so one quote we pulled is “I wish I hadn’t cried so much.” And so we wanted to think about that in terms of challenges on the jobs and lessons we’ve learned.
Tobias Lentz 02:41
And crying in general. Whether it’s happy, or whether it’s relief, or sadness or hitting the wall. What do we have on the program for today?
Katherine Peach 02:54
So we’re going to hear from Miko Yoshida, who was the editor in chief of last year’s BackMatter. And so he had a lot to say, both personally and professionally about the publishing world. And then we also are going to hear again from our creative director, Alla Anatsko. I think we’re gonna also hear from Jon Baskin, our professor. We talked to him last week, and he had plenty of things to say about overcoming challenges.
Tobias Lentz 03:21
Yeah, and then we’re going to have Michaela Keil, in the studio today and she’s actually going to be here, in the same room, which is exciting, and she’s gonna be here to talk about the very complicated, complex role that she has had in BackMatter.
Katherine Peach 03:52
So Michaela is the Managing Editor, but she also took over as Publisher this semester.
Tobias Lentz 03:58
Right, so she had a lot on her plate, we know by now, so she has all the insights, but let’s see it from the others first.
My name is Miko. I’m originally from Los Angeles. I’m Japanese American, and I have family in California, Canada, and Japan. And two semesters ago, I was the co-editor in chief for BackMatter. One of the things that I have found is how hard it is bureaucratically or administratively to deal with the university itself, you know, acknowledging what it takes to get that thing in front of you, whether it’s an article or a piece of art or a podcast, like it takes time and effort, and I think the industry itself, if anybody has been applying to jobs, is severely underpaid and I don’t know how people survive. I really don’t, I guess it’s the cost of capitalism, I don’t know but what we’re doing is really important, or at least I believe it is. So the amount of money that people can survive off, especially in New York City, doesn’t match the amount of effort. And so my goal, or my hope is that whenever we, like, myself or other people on the team, rise to those positions where they can make those decisions, they can remember that they were here and not try to embrace the mentality of, well, when I was coming up, it was hard, so you know, I’m not going to make it easy for you. I don’t think that’s really the right mentality. We have such advances in technology and all these other things, that things should be easier, and we should get paid more. A grad student making basically minimum wage sounds ridiculous, and it is ridiculous. I think all these things build up to the fact that even though this is a classroom environment, and we’re creating something great, we all were also trying to look ahead and see what was coming and most of the people in the project were graduating. And so there was a lot of conversation around trying to apply for jobs, and getting rejected, and having to deal with that, and, you know, finding yourself as a freelance writer after two years of grad school where you already work really hard to get through it, not just mentally, but you’re also trying to make a living. So there was a lot of other things, not to include the pandemic and the election, and everything was kind of chaotic. I think that chaos is always going to be there in some way, shape, or form and so it’s not really about trying to control the chaos, it’s trying to control ourselves and how we want to deal with it, and being flexible, understanding, etc.
I’m Alla Anatsko, I’m the creative director of BackMatter magazine.
Katherine Peach 07:12
How do you lean on your team being the person who’s making a lot of top level decisions and making sure everyone’s collaborating?
Well, the only challenge I think everyone has right now, in this particular class, is people do not really use Slack, and it would be nicer if people would be more responsive. At the same time, we’re all very busy, we know that, it’s grad school. People have jobs, people have kids. But yeah, that’s probably the only challenge. I think that when you work with people, such as designers, photographers, like all creatives, this is a certain stereotype that those people are not well organized, and they cannot meet the deadlines. At the same time, it feels like it’s going.
I’m Jon Baskin, and I am the Assistant Coordinator of the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism program. I think this is one of the coolest things about the class actually, even though the students don't always like it when they’re going through it, is that it really does simulate the sort of crisis mode that one goes into in the final weeks of a magazine, putting a magazine out. And this is true throughout the industry, even at very established magazines, you’re staying there till midnight for four days when it’s closing time, and it’s just sort of how things work. You try to be patient with each other. It’s very easy to get irritated with people at this stage. It’s almost impossible not to in some regard—people are asking you for things, you’re tired, you just want it to be over, you try to be patient with people and with yourself and make sure of that within your communication. I think some of it goes back to what you’ve set up beforehand, like, have you set up good communication and established channels of respectful ways of disagreeing and giving feedback to each other so that at the end, you have that underlying trust and respect? And so when you need to do things fast, and you can’t always be as polite and circumspect as you might like to be you can also make sure to tell each other what’s going well, to be encouraging about the things that you like, and that are working well, because often, you focus so much on the loose ends that are not done, but I hope when we did the critique today, you guys felt good about the amount that people, when they actually look from the outside of this thing, say, wow, this is an incredible thing you’ve created in this short time.
Michaela Keil 11:08
I’m Michaela, I am BackMatter’s Managing Editor for 2022. I have been involved in the world of print journalism for about four years now. Since then, I’ve been doing my best to break in, you know, the whole graduating in the pandemic, “god, who even knows what’s happening, where do I go from here?” Yeah. But after about a year of working with newspapers locally, and just freelancing and stuff, I decided to apply to The New School, got in, and I am thrilled to be here.
Tobias Lentz 11:40
Well, we’re happy to have you here. And I will say, to our listeners, that this is the first time we have Michaela live in the podcast, like before, we had Jon over Zoom call together, but this is the very first time having her in the studio.
Michaela Keil 11:58
I’m really honored to be here. Yeah. First guest, I don’t know, it’s a hefty responsibility, guys. It’s really fun.
Tobias Lentz 12:10
And what would you say is the most crucial role you play? I think I have an idea because we’ve been most in contact in terms of deadlines, and keeping in track of each other.
Katherine Peach 12:47
And I’ll just jump in really quickly to clarify for anyone who doesn’t remember, Madi is the Editor in Chief, officially and so I think it would also be helpful for you to talk about, not only the main role of a Managing Editor, but what those roles are and how they differentiate. So it might be interesting to hear how it’s functioned for you both.
Michaela Keil 13:11
Yeah. So I’ll answer both. So, in terms of me and Madi, I think we work far more as a team than many traditional structures would, especially in bigger publications. When there’s a lot more people, there will be an Editor in Chief and there will be a Managing Editor underneath. But Editor in Chief also, when a publication gets bigger, turns into a business, an Editor in Chief is far more akin to a president and CEO, and the Managing Editor is just like the person who makes it all happen, who is still very important. Not going to diminish myself here.
Katherine Peach 13:47
It’s all gotta happen.
Michaela Keil 13:48
Yeah, it’s all gotta happen. But, the structure just becomes far more ingrained the larger you get. So I think Madi and I have definitely done a good job of being like, “Hey just let me know what’s going on here,” and I’ll be like, “Yeah, you tell me what’s going on here,” and checking in and keeping it as more of a team focused idea. I think having two different titles for our roles, really just helps give differentiation to who to go to for what. So Madi will be making hard decisions like if two people can’t decide, Madi has got the gavel, she’s going to hammer it down and say this is our verdict, this is what we’re gonna go with. And I guess, Tobias, to your question, more of my role is definitely deadlines and calendars. It sounds ridiculous. I am our calendar keeper, I check in with everybody, I’m like, where are you in our process? Honestly, the most time-intensive part of my job is making sure that we hit deadlines, because if we don’t, we don’t have a product. That was the theme of this week as we went to print praying to god that the timeline worked and that it will create a product.
Tobias Lentz 14:56
Which we will want to hear more about.
Michaela Keil 14:59
Yes, that was a shitshow. But it worked, it was good.
Katherine Peach 15:23
So, it sounds like a huge challenge.
Michaela Keil 15:26
I’ll break down the typical structure of what printing looks like. The typical structure is you create a proof within the internals so over the weekend, Alla, who was our Creative Director, she and Hanna, who was our Art Director, put together a proof, sent it to me, and I sent it to Madi and other editors who I thought should take a look at it. We went over it, we noted the things that were still wrong in the printed edition, like let’s make these changes. Then Monday night, Alla and I ended up being up very late trying to finish it and get all these changes in. So after the internal, you make sure that it looks right, then you typically send it to the printer, and the printer will get you a soft PDF proof. So we sent it to the printer, and we got the PDF proof but the proof needed some things to be adjusted. So this morning, we took a look at the proof and we realized that there was some text that was going to be eaten by the spine because it was a little bit too close to the edge. So we adjusted all that, we sent that proof back to the printer, so we’re just waiting on their copy of what it’s going to look like. A PDF proof basically is where the printer will put the lines where they’re going to be cutting the page, and where they’re going to be putting it together and stuff like that. So that’s typically how it goes. However, this week, we ran into some fun bureaucracy troubles, which is always how it goes when you’re working within an institution. So on Monday, when we tried to send the proof, we could not actually order our magazine, because we learned that we went over budget—which, it’s amazing that when you add four pages to a magazine, and you’re only ordering 150 copies, it adds $400 to the total cost of the magazine.
Katherine Peach 17:11
Holy moly. That is a lot.
Michaela Keil 17:15
Yeah, it’s gonna be a beautiful product, but we did not account for that. When we were going through we were like, oh four pages, whatever. And then the only thing we didn’t account for was taxes and shipping so we did circumvent it a little bit, we’re shipping it to New Jersey. I’m going to be potentially driving 150 magazines to the party day of because that is the day that it is going to be arriving, on the day of our party. So we’re going to be driving them, but shipping it to New Jersey saves you $200 in taxes. So it’s amazing the way these things go. When you scale stuff up really large, the changes can be really large as well.
Tobias Lentz 17:56
So the thing to take away is to live in New Jersey, guys.
Katherine Peach 18:01
There’s a lot of perks.
Michaela Keil 18:03
There are a lot of perks, including taxes. So what happened is we went over budget, and then we had to contact the budgeting office at The New School and say, hey, budgeting office, do you mind if we go over budget for this one class—we were only like $400 over, which isn’t a crazy amount. So they approved us for going over budget but then we couldn’t pay for it, because we were going to use Madi’s credit card because she’s a Student Advisor and she has access to funds but her credit limit was too low. So then we had to reach out to the finance office. Finance office had to give us somebody else;s credit card to use. So then we had to reach out to the Secretary of the CPCJ program, Silvana, she’s wonderful. But so then we had to use her credit card, but then her credit limit wasn’t enough. So we went back to the finance office, and said can you please help. So they raised her credit limit, she finally called me, we sat down, we paid for it. Amazing. Done. That was also with like, 13 calls in between to the printer to say, “Are you sure this is the right price? Are you sure it’s gonna come in on time? Can we just double check that all of this is going to work?” So, it was messier than it should have been, but these are things to learn when you’re working through a bureaucracy, and an institution, is that things are slow. Institutions are so much slower than you’d ever, ever expect.
Tobias Lentz 19:26
So looking back, would you have in your calendar, put extra days for this process if you knew?
Michaela Keil 19:34
So, I did. I’m just gonna tell everybody that I did. We had an earlier deadline. And I had very hard deadlines. I was like, guys, we have to get this done by this date and it just kept getting pushed back. So I had our deadline as a full week before this. We didn’t make that, but that’s okay, because I built in the extra time, which is very, very, very good, and I’m very glad I did that. However, I will say this was a particularly messy process, partially, because we did not have a production person this year, because we had a production person, but unfortunately, she did not stay with us for the whole semester, so we didn’t really get anything out of having a person designated to making the print work. The other thing is that also, this is the first year that we’ve really fully printed something, and are having a party, and are doing the whole shabang, because this class has been going for four years, and a solid two of them were in COVID, and one of them didn’t print a magazine. So this is honestly probably the first year that everything has gone according to plan, which is why we had hiccups, and it’s also just bound to happen, but that’s bound to happen anytime you do any large project.
Katherine Peach 20:52
Yeah, well, that makes me think for someone who’s starting an independent project, $400 could be the difference between being able to go to print or not. So that’s huge to know, for people who are looking to make their own project. It sounds like this past week has obviously been a huge challenge for a lot of people, but I’d be curious if you would have handled things differently or had an ah-ha moment through this where you’re like, okay, this is a learning lesson.
Michaela Keil 21:48
We were joking that this would be a therapy episode today. I don’t actually know that there’s something I would wish I had known ahead of time, because this entire class, the purpose of this class is to be learning, and if I had come into this with such a dearth of knowledge, I know exactly what to do in every single scenario, I wouldn’t be gaining anything from this, and neither would anybody else, because you learn from your mistakes. So the thing that Madi and I’ve been texting each other all week about is we definitely have suggested to Jon that we next year, the class should have a glossary of terms, because that’s the one thing that has been complicated, is not everybody knows all the print terms. So it means me being like, hey, Madi, there’s a problem with this, and her being like, what does that mean? That takes me extra time to tell her what’s going on. We need quick decisions, so having those terms, for everybody to know, would be helpful, I think. But that was the only thing that I wish we had put into place earlier. I will say probably today was the hardest day for me challenge-wise, because, like I said, our print proof this morning, you wouldn’t be able to read some of the text, and I absolutely was like, this is the last day it can go to print before it doesn’t make it to the party. So I was Slacking with Alla and I was just like, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Thankfully, she has been so wonderful and amazing. This week, she has gotten so much done on that magazine. She fixed the issue, and she said it was easier than I expected, so we went through really quickly, and now we’re just waiting on final approval. And so the light is at the end of the tunnel, we think we’re going to make it.
Tobias Lentz 23:59
Which could come any minute now. Right?
Michaela Keil 24:01
It could. I am sitting here on my computer, as we speak, checking to see if our print proof has come in. It has not, yet, but yesterday, it came in at 9 p.m., so it could come in at 9 p.m. today, and that’s okay. Everybody is prepared for it when it does, and we will definitely make sure that it goes to all the right eyes really quick, and then we just hit the checkmark, and it starts printing tomorrow.
Tobias Lentz 24:23
Because we don’t really have that many people.
Michaela Keil 24:26
Katherine Peach 24:28
How many are there of us?
Michaela Keil 24:32
So if we include our two professors, there are 16 of us. Which is more than you think, but there’s 14 people total working on this magazine, which in context, is a small team to make a magazine that is 100 pages long. That is a very small team.
Tobias Lentz 24:55
While having other classes.
Michaela Keil 24:58
While having other classes and jobs and a life and you’re basically doing this for free and giving all of your time to it.
Katherine Peach 25:03
Yeah, there’s that. That’s a thing. But one of my favorite moments working with you — I know you love Euphoria, right? I feel like we’ve talked about this.
Michaela Keil 24:15
I actually have never seen Euphoria.
Katherine Peach 25:17
Dang, now my analogy doesn’t even work!
Michaela Keil 25:20
I’ve seen it, give it a go.
Katherine Peach 25:23
Because you are so organized and so good at keeping calm when telling everybody we need to pick it up when we’re dropping the ball, pushing back deadlines, all this. So there’s this character in Euphoria who’s the sister, what’s her name?
Tobias Lentz 25:41
Katherine Peach 25:42
Lexi. And she creates a play and ends up running the play and she turns into this brilliant tyrant, talking to everybody, making people cry, but also like saying the exact thing that needs to happen. And then at one point, she is like, walking through the backstage and she goes, I fucking love the theater. I was like, oh my god this is Michaela and she was born for this. So funny. I hope you think that’s funny. It’s supposed to be cute.
Michaela Keil 26:14
You know what’s ironic is I was Slacking Jon the other day—and by the other day I mean, yesterday, when things were messy—we were just talking about the process of what’s been going on with the print edition and just like getting everything under control and getting in contact with people because people were everywhere and we couldn’t nail down who we needed. And he said something along the lines of like, oh, yeah, there was a lot going on this year, thank you for your work. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I think I said, “I might be asking for more trouble than it’s worth, but I rather enjoyed it all.” Maybe I’m probably asking for more trouble, but I think it was fun. It’s been a fun semester, stressful, yeah, but good fun.
Tobias Lentz 27:01
I think we’ll see how that is also the reason that we will have a successful product.
Katherine Peach 27:06
Michaela Keil 27:07
Hopefully. We’ll see if it’s all for nothing. I hope it works out really nicely. And I really think it will. Again, we’ve worked too hard for it not to, is my theory. It just has to. There’s literally no other option.
Tobias Lentz 27:23
It will. All right. Thank you, Michaela.
Katherine Peach 27:27
Michaela Keil 27:28
And we just got our proof in. That’s so exciting. Oh, my god. We can hit that Approval button today.
Tobias Lentz 27:49
You want to just wrap it up? I think we could wrap it up with what we’ve struggled with the most, maybe more in terms of the ums and the likes
Katherine Peach 28:01
The ums and the likes. Yeah, I did edit out, I think it was at least two minutes, maybe three minutes, of just ums and likes. The challenge was that they were sometimes a little more noticeable due to the programming we used called D Script, which is a very helpful program in terms of transcribing everything and then you can delete the words from the written transcript, and I’ll delete it from the audio, but it’s not necessarily always the most clean cut.
Tobias Lentz 28:34
Yeah, I also know that I’m not the best with ums and likes. In terms of my speaking. Well, there you go.
Katherine Peach 28:47
It’s hard once you are aware of it not to do it.
Tobias Lentz 28:51
Yeah, it is very hard. I love my ums, but in podcasts, we don’t like them so much. It depends, on the vibe, depends on the quality and how much time you have to edit those out. But that’s a lot of work to do. I think also one thing that will be interesting to talk about is if we had to continue this podcast, what would it be about and why would we continue it. What are your thoughts?
Katherine Peach 29:25
Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s kind of a time capsule right? We definitely wanted to capture what it is behind the scenes to actually make a publication. I do wonder what it would be about if we kept going with it.
Tobias Lentz 29:39
Alice in Wonderland is not endless. But there are times.
Katherine Peach 29:44
Not according to the movie industry, I guess.
Tobias Lentz 29:47
We could take on some other adventure.
Katherine Peach 29:50
Yeah, a new chapter. I guess people do have seasons, so we could start a brand new season which hopefully will happen when the next iteration of the publication, next year in 2023 will have their own version and their own take on it.
Tobias Lentz 30:06
And it could be completely new. It doesn’t have to be anything about what we’ve done. But yeah, it’s been great, it’s been really fun. We’ve allowed ourselves to just have fun with it. In the beginning, I was very harsh, I felt it had to be very informative, people had to gain something from it. But I realized that a lot of the podcasts that I listen to all the time are just people having fun so that’s kind of been the theme. Just have fun.
Katherine Peach 30:42
Just have fun with it, just don’t just. Don’t let anybody bring you down about what kind of podcast you want to make. I literally am listening to podcasts where they’re gonna go through every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I have not seen every episode, but as a kid, my mom had it on. So I’ve seen a lot of episodes, but not very well and not probably in a very long time. But I’m literally listening to these guys dissect the episodes but it’s enjoyable. So it doesn’t have to be something important.
Katherine Peach 31:30
Well, we are really wrapping up the entire season. Our print edition is going to be out. Our event is on May 12. And we will have everything up on the website at backmatter22.com.