Outlook: From Conception to Reality

Georges Sakr
Layout Editor


Many students around campus don’t read Outlook, or even know it exists. This still leaves, on average, about two thousand who do, and who will avidly devour every issue between the time it comes out every Tuesday morning and the time we print the next issue on Monday night. In that period of time, there is a lot that happens.

So here’s how it goes. Or should.

The Process on Paper:

By Monday afternoon, each section’s Editor populate a file – the Topics List, on our shared folder online – with interesting new developments.

We then have a writers’ meeting around 6 p.m., in which we go over the list and writers claim things to write about. Anyone present also brings up issues worth noting that editors may have missed.

The writers can then get to work on topics they’ve picked during the meeting – or later. When an article is done, the writer sends it to Outlook’s email address; it is then added to folder #1 on our shared drive, and its status is updated on the list. If the writer sends a picture in, it is added to the pictures folder on the drive, otherwise one of our photographers does. Our Editors begin doing what they do. Every article goes from folder #1 to folder #2 after initial editing. On Sunday mornings, articles in folder #2 are edited by our Associate Editor, Razan, and by Laudy; then they’re sent to folder #3. On Sunday afternoon, our proofreader, Christina, goes through all of the articles in folder #3, makes final edits, and sends them to a final folder. On Sunday evening, I start downloading the articles and pictures, and arranging everything together. After consulting with me, Laudy sends an estimated number of pages per issue to the printer. On Monday, I get to AUB with the issue mostly done. Laudy types up her editorial, we tidy up any last-minute changes, then we receive the Arabic half of the week’s issue and one of either Laudy or myself makes any last-minute changes necessary, under the eye of our Arabic Editor, Ghina, and often our Associate Arabic Editor, Khouloud. We print a copy, and our Copy Editor, Lynn, goes over everything for a final quality check. We finally send it to the printers, and we go home. On Tuesday morning, by the time we get to AUB, the latest issue’s copies are distributed by the someone from the Physical Plant to West Hall and to our blue boxes around campus. On Wednesday, the Editors meet up and give each other constructive feedback about the issue, partly based on what they’ve heard from people and the writers, and partly based on their own experiences.

The Process IRL:

Of course, that’s only ever on paper, because life is messy and because our job is to cover the news as they go. Which is why more often than not, we’ll have articles added to folder #1 on Sunday afternoons – and it’s not just one. So of course, our Editors have to be on call on Sunday evenings, Razan and Laudy spend their Sunday nights editing, and Christina has her morning coffee over a couple new articles on Monday. In parallel, I’m editing layout from Sunday at about 4PM to Monday at about 3AM (including articles that are coming out as I’m doing my thing). I do most of my homework between incoming articles.

Come Monday, 10AM, I somehow make it to the Outlook newsroom, half-asleep, this photographer or that editor on the phone negotiating an extra sentence or picture, Laudy half-disheveled typing a third version of her editorial frantically, Firas doing whatever it takes to make the whole thing easier for all of us, anyone in the newsroom giving their opinion on the current state of the layout. The version of layout that gets printed is usually the third or fourth after article lengths have changed and pictures have been re-re-added. During the staff meeting, there is usually no layout editing going on, as we’re all listening and pitching in ideas; as soon as it ends, we rush to finish the issue as soon as possible.

Usually the file goes from computer to computer a couple times before it is ready to export. Some files disappear, some fonts randomly get switched, some dimensions change units – you name it. Then Lynn reads through the English half and finds so many things we just laugh at out of exhaustion: an article continued on page 6 is mentioned to continue on page 2, an Arabic writer’s name is on an English article, one of Demi’s news articles features a picture of her latest restaurant review, we have three ‘Song of the week’s, some formal NGO’s logo is squished half a page too tall…

By the time we export and send the issue to the printer around 8:30 (our deadline), Laudy and I have probably forgotten to set it to the right color format. If I’m giving her a ride home, we set aside our pizza and take out my laptop, go back to editing on the highway, and resend the issue on her 3G. This, of course, goes back and forth a few times – the margins are too small! The font is too big! The colors aren’t working!… Pages 4 and 5 are swapped…?!

By the time we’ve reached her house, though, the man over at the printer’s has usually guided us through five re-exports and resends, and the issue is printing. We get home psyched to get to work on the next issue – and then wake up the second morning to go wait for the issue to be delivered to West Hall, so we can criticize our week’s worth of hard work.

The Secret of the Trade:

As an insider, I can truly say, Outlook is a real-life, weekly group project. Everyone does their part, then we obsess over each issue together, we give it our everything, we (well, some of us) OD on coffee, we nag about it every chance we get, we hang out with each other while each does their job, we praise each other’s successes, criticize each other’s failures… we’re a family, conscious of our duty to each other and to the larger AUB community.

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