Behind the scenes at On The Bay

by Janet Lees, Editor

On The Bay Team

The On The Bay team (l-r): Cindy Caines, production manager; Tara McLellan, ad designer; Jeff Shearer, publisher; Holger Meiche, art director; Janet Lees, editor; Patti Bowden, western region ad sales; Shauna Burke, eastern region ad sales.


Four times a year, things get a little crazy at On The Bay’s Collingwood office. That’s not a bad thing – in the publishing business, where creativity and deadlines collide, crazy is not only accepted; it’s expected.

In the last couple of weeks before the magazine goes to print, the pressure is tangible, but so is the excitement. Personally, after 10 years as editor of On The Bay, I can honestly say that the lead-up to completing each and every issue still feels like a birthing process – stressful, maybe even painful, but oh, so rewarding. The end result (hopefully) is a ‘baby’ that is as beautiful and perfect as it is unique.

As I write this, we are currently at the layout stage. I have already edited the articles submitted to me by our professional writers (assigned months ago), and our professional photographers have filed the images they’ve shot to accompany each story. As our art director, Holger Meiche, finishes each layout, we print the article page by page from our colour laser printer and stick the pages up on our ‘War Wall’ – our pet name for a long wall in our office hallway where we physically ‘build’ the magazine. This allows us to preview the magazine at full size in a very low-tech but highly effective way. We can see if a layout isn’t working, if a headline is too ‘clunky,’ or if a photo misses the mark on the wow factor. The process feels very organic, and very collaborative – our entire team, from our publisher, Jeff Shearer, to our salespeople, Shauna Burke and Patti Bowden, and our production manager Cindy Caines – are encouraged to give feedback on the War Wall layouts.

On the Bay Wall

The ‘War Wall,’ where we build and preview the magazine at full size before committing it to digital and print formats.

Egos and agendas get left at the door – we’re all united in the common goal of putting together the very best magazine for our readers. Do we always agree? More often than not, yes, but even when we don’t it’s never personal. The term Jeff uses ‘honest friction’ – friction born of high standards and honest intentions – one of the many pearls of wisdom that have informed our decade of working together.

As we continue building The Wall and tweaking the editorial layouts, Cindy, Shauna and Patti scramble to get all of the ads in, either complete or in many cases created by our ad designer Tara McLellan, and then approved by our 150-plus advertisers. Once editorial layouts are complete, the ads are physically placed in the space allotted in the layouts. Again, it’s a cut-and-paste procedure, but there’s a lot of discussion, thought and creativity that goes into it – we want our ads to look as good as possible next to the editorial, so the overall experience for our readers is, “what a beautiful magazine,” not, “what a lot of ads” or, worse yet, “what a dog’s breakfast.”

Once the ads are placed on the wall, Holger puts everything together digitally. We print the final magazine out again for everyone to review – twice (once before it goes to the printer, and once after the printer has prepared the digital files to go on press). Our eagle-eyed proofreader, Anita Hunter, is invaluable at this stage.

When Holger hits the final ‘send’ button that gives the printer the go-ahead to run the presses, we all breathe a huge sigh of relief.
So, you see, birthing a magazine is a process. Is it stressful? Yes – because we want it to be perfect. Is it exhausting? Yes – because we put so much of ourselves into each issue. But it’s also loads of fun and incredibly fulfilling. And the reason for that is that we have, without a doubt, the best team of people in the business.

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