Making Church Magazines
July 2008

“Making Church Magazines,” Ensign, July 2008, 64–69

Making Church Magazines

Have you ever wondered how your Church magazine came to be? When you look at the magazine you are holding in your hands, do you wonder just who put it together and how it was done?

Come along for an editor’s tour of the Church magazines, to show how these publications are put together.

As you read this magazine, planning has already begun for the magazine that is one year away. In preparing it, magazine editors will follow direction from several members of the Seventy, who share counsel from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency on topics that need to be covered to help strengthen members. Based on the Brethren’s counsel, articles are chosen or created.

Four Main Sources for Magazine Articles

Talks or writings of the prophet and other General Authorities or Church leaders may be turned into articles.

Members of the Seventy and auxiliary presidencies write articles in support of Church courses of study.

Church magazine editors write articles after doing research on a topic or visiting Latter-day Saints in a particular place.

You, the readers, write articles. Your submissions allow the voices of Latter-day Saints from around the world to be heard in the magazines.

Planning an Issue

Planning always begins with the Liahona, which is published in up to 51 languages. It is published monthly in 21 languages. In languages with lower numbers of subscribers, readers may receive the Liahona four or six times a year. Those languages with the fewest subscribers receive a magazine one, two, or three times a year.

The Liahona includes articles for adults, youth, and children, a local section including, in part, news for members in their particular area of the Church.

Church leaders have asked that as nearly as possible the content used in the Liahona match the content that is printed in the Church’s English-only magazines: the Ensign, New Era, and Friend. In planning monthly issues of the Liahona, editors prayerfully try to judge which articles are most needed by members worldwide. The choices of articles are reviewed by the General Authorities who are advisers to the Curriculum Department.

Graphic Design and Production

Editors of the Liahona and Ensign discuss placement of articles within an upcoming issue.

Designers choose a format and art or photographs to help teach the spiritual principles covered in articles. Here, the art director of the Liahona shows proposed layouts to staff editors and designers.

As graphic designers create the layouts of articles, they commission illustrations or photography, as needed, from professional artists and photographers.

Far right: Working via e-mail, production artists communicate with translators all over the world. Right: Magazine production in as many as 51 languages requires creating page layouts on the computer and reviewing proofs in each language.

Putting It All Together

On any given day of the year, magazine staff members will be preparing several different issues for coming months. These will be at different stages, from early planning to proofreading to on-the-presses for next month’s issue. (The Church’s printing center in Salt Lake City, Utah, prints the English-only magazines and most editions of the Liahona.) Writing and editing of articles are completed about eight months before the publication date for each issue of the magazine. However, if something develops in the next three or four months that must be covered in the Church magazines, editors may pull out a scheduled article and replace it with a new one.

All of the Church magazines undergo review of their contents at more than one stage. After articles are edited, they are read by assigned reviewers, including a few members of the Seventy. Following this review the approved text goes to staff graphic designers, who design page layouts. They may choose existing photography and art or may commission new photography and art. Because pages for the Liahona must accommodate expansion of the translated text in various languages, extra space is designed into each article. When the design is finished, the pages are reviewed by members of the Seventy and one or more members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The magazine production process includes about a month for translation of Liahona articles. Translators are Church members who live all over the world. They exchange Liahona articles electronically with Church headquarters.

Printing and Distribution

Printed signatures pass through a machine that collates them, adds the cover, and then “saddle stitches” (staples) them together. Each magazine is then trimmed of excess paper.

Finished magazines are packaged for mailing or shipping from the Church’s central distribution center in Salt Lake City.

In the warehouse where other printed Church materials are stored, an employee inspects the magazines that are packaged for shipping.

Getting Magazines to You

The final designed proofs of the magazine pages are delivered to editors for proofreading. The pages are then sent electronically to the printing center five months before the issue date for the English Liahona, two months for other languages of the Liahona, and two months for the Ensign, New Era, and Friend. News sections of the Liahona go to press about two months before the issue date and for the Ensign about a month before the issue date.

Printed magazines are bundled and shipped to areas outside the United States for distribution through various means, including local mail systems. Within the United States, they are mailed through the United States Postal Service. Magazines are sent to more distant areas first and mailed to readers in Utah last. Plans call for magazines to arrive by the first Sunday of the month for which they are dated, but this can sometimes vary.

Now that you have this magazine in your hands, we hope you will find that it contributes to your spiritual growth. Articles might touch on physical health, finances, or other topics that we all have to deal with in this mortal life, but their primary purpose is to help strengthen you spiritually.

If you have anything you want to say about the articles you read here, we will be glad to hear from you (see our address at right). If you would like to suggest ways we can do better in addressing your spiritual needs, we would like to hear about that too. Anything we can learn to help us serve readers better will benefit you and us as well.

One year before the Liahona issue date: planning is completed. Articles are selected or written.

Ten months before the issue date: articles written by staff editors, auxiliary presidencies, or General Authorities are edited. Readers’ submissions are edited at this time as well.

Nine months before the issue date: articles are reviewed by an assigned committee and by General Authorities.

Eight months before the issue date: articles are assigned positions in the magazine. (Similar deadlines for the Friend, New Era, and Ensign follow two to three months later.)

Seven to eight months before the issue date: graphic designers conceptualize and lay out articles; illustrators and photographers are contracted to produce assigned artwork or photography.

Six months before the issue date: several General Authorities review page layouts for Liahona articles. Articles are sent to translators.

Six months before the issue date: electronic versions of English Liahona pages begin going to prepress personnel for preparation for printing. Versions in other languages follow as they are translated and laid out.

Two months before the issue date: printing begins. The Friend, New Era, and Ensign will follow the Liahona on the presses at the Church’s printing center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

One to two months before the issue date: a few language editions of the Liahona are printed in their countries of distribution.

One to two months before the issue date: magazine printing, packaging, and distribution begin. Magazines are sent first to areas farthest from Salt Lake City. In many countries, they are delivered to subscribers through local postal systems. In other countries, they are distributed through wards and branches.

Photographs by Welden C. Andersen

The managing editors of the Liahona and Ensign discuss an article to be used in an upcoming issue.

An editor for the Church magazines typically has a university degree, most often in journalism or English, and several years’ experience in writing, editing, or publishing.

A designer for the Church magazines typically has a university degree, several years’ experience in a design studio, and skill with several computer design and production programs.

Graphic designers create page layouts electronically for each article in English. Production artists will later reproduce those layouts with translated text.

The web press at the Church’s printing center in Salt Lake City can print from 8 to 64 pages on both sides of the paper, then cut and fold the printed pages into “signatures” (large multiple-page printed sheets that fold, forming the individual pages). The web press averages 30,000 impressions per hour. It operates 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday, with four-person crews working on rotating shifts.

This press operator has unfolded a 16-page signature and is inspecting it for proper “registration” (ensuring that the printing plates are properly aligned) and color match. The press prints all the colors seen in the magazines by combining only four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

The web press prints on 2,800-pound (1,270-kg) rolls of paper that contain about 80,000 feet (24,380 m), or 15 miles (24 km), of paper. Printing the June 2008 Ensign required 105 rolls of paper—about 1,590 miles (2,560 km). The paper shown below is running through a dryer as it exits the press. The paper appears blurred because it is moving so quickly.

A press operator at the Church’s printing center will have at least five years’ experience and will have completed a Graphic Arts Training Foundation course that lasts from six months to a year.