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