A Gift to Our Community

Story and some photos by Paul Liggitt

Marketers have trained consumers to flit from movement to movement on electronic screens because our attention spans are short. They know they only have a few seconds to get us to click on their call to action. It is said that every time there is movement on a screen, our attention resets.

_ # _ * _ ? _ # _ 🙂 Sorry I just got a text from my wife about a Facebook post and a link to a breaking news feed about a live pandemic update that could affect me…or not…. You get the point.

That is why there is a place for Hyco Lake Magazine. There is a tactile and tangible component to a magazine. Nothing to click; you just pick it up and hold it. It can be warm or cool, depending on whether it was sitting in the sun or shade. You may even smell a little of the printing process if it's “hot off the press,” as they say.

A printed magazine on the coffee table or credenza at your office invites, not demands, that people enjoy a relaxing stroll through the pages. It does not discriminate. Peter and Chris Berry go to great effort to publish Hyco Lake Magazine. Their hope is that readers will savor the content and it will hold their attention. They said they are thankful for the support and attention they and the magazine have received, and that is why they believe that Hyco Lake Magazine is a gift to our community.

A Little History

Throughout history, mankind has continuously made attempts to communicate. We figured out ways to express emotion and pass on necessary skills. We also discovered ways to draw on different surfaces to record more permanent impressions. As far back as 220 AD, the Chinese used carved wood blocks to make prints, first on cloth, then on paper -- which they also invented.

By 1439, Johannes Gutenberg harnessed existing technology with his vision to invent the mechanical movable printing press. Thus, mass-produced printing was born. Since then, printing innovations have continued. Some feared that each new technological advance, especially electronic media and the Internet, would be the death of printing. That is not the case, however.

Three Legs to Stand On

While there are fewer printers today than there were 10 years ago, the value of the printed page and magazines still exists. But printing is just one leg of the publishing stool. Another is the designer, who is the creative captain of each publication. He or she artfully composes the content by using space, text, and graphics to enhance the theme of each edition. Designers look at the juxtaposition of colors and images. To them, a blank page is an opportunity.

The third leg in the three-legged stool of publishing is of course the publisher, or the visionary. Publishers have the conviction of direction and the energy to follow through on ideas. They also are probably the extroverts who ask if you want to advertise in the publication and will promote you and your business as a result.

If you have expertise and commitment to these three legs -- publisher, designer, and printer -- you have a shot at producing a publication that is of great value to your community. It can expand awareness of an area and transform a destination into a region to be appreciated. That long-winded introduction leads to Hyco Lake Magazine and its role in our community.

Massive Job

Let me say, as someone who has done photography, design, layout, ad sales, proofing, and press checks at all hours, it is a massive job, and not for the faint of heart. I am not sure if they call it a deadline because it kills you, you wish you were dead, or you want to kill someone. Maybe it’s some of each.

You have to trust the process and the personnel you work with when you send the designs, copy, and ad content to the printer, often in a distant place. You hope that the initial vision makes it to the printed page. Ultimately, it is the publisher’s responsibility, and good ones like Peter and Chris Berry don’t take it lightly.

Their inaugural issue, published just three years ago, gave readers a glimpse into their history. That introductory story can be found at https://hycolakemagazine.com/writing-a-new-chapter/.

Like Minds with Different Perspectives

Peter and Chris purchased HLM from Janna Smith of Blank Page Solutions in 2017. They shared much the same vision Janna had, but from different perspectives. The Berrys’ publishing company is Happy Endings Publications. Although Peter had self-published books, there was a big difference between that and a magazine.

The Berrys asked themselves, “Why are we doing this?” The answer was that they wanted to showcase a community that was much more dynamic than simply a neighborhood of weekend or permanent lake dwellers. They said they believe Hyco Lake is more of a region than simply a destination. They always knew that the area was welcoming, but as they put down their own roots, they realized it was more diverse than they had thought.

Peter, a relative newcomer, was excited to get to know the area and, because inquiring minds want to know, he began to meet personalities, storytellers, writers, and photographers who brought perspective and nuance to the region they lived in. He said he loves the relational aspect of presenting ideas and pulling a team together made up of all sorts of talent -- both pros and amateurs -- in order to put the Hyco Lake region on display.

The magazine covers Person, Caswell, and Halifax counties, along with the city of Danville. Although these areas have different cultures, HLM is helping them realize the value in their proximity to each other and the shared destination of Hyco Lake. In the past, much of the magazine was focused on the real estate available around the lake, but the Berrys wanted to expand and highlight the different and distinct personalities in the areas HLM covers.

Hyco Lake Magazine on the Internet

Peter’s background in computers allowed him to create a comprehensive online presence for HLM. The website, https://HycoLakeMagazine.com, has experienced a four-fold increase in activity in the three years the Berrys have had it. It is a way to archive back issues, allow more photos and provide links to advertisers and organizations. There is also a tremendous value for advertisers. Their ads stay online and substantially extend the life of their printed ads. The advertisers are a community in and of themselves who deserve our support. Without the advertisers, the magazine would not exist.

These days, a web presence is necessary but it doesn’t compare to the personal experience of thumbing through a four-color magazine. Some studies say that readers are less distracted when viewing a printed publication and that a printed ad is more believable.

The Publishing Team

The mission statement of the magazine is, “Enhancing our community with interesting stories, beautiful photography and information, while bringing together residents and local merchants.” As Chris and Peter discussed the magazine with me, it became obvious that the mission statement is the guiding force. It dictates the theme of each issue and what content gets in or is held for later issues.

I also gained an appreciation for their concept of “the team.” It is not just the publisher, designer, and printer, but also the content providers and advertisers. They understand the importance of giving a voice to the writers and photographers telling the stories of the region and the value of professional editing by Phyliss Boatwright. Everyone has a role to play.

Chris is a physical therapist by trade and a self-admitted “good gofer” when it comes to the magazine. She is a second set of eyes for proofing, but she also offers perspective in all areas and directions of each issue. Chris noted that when the “full flavor” of the issue comes out, it is “most satisfying” as a publisher. The magazine is like a “time capsule” and Peter said people love it. When he distributes it, he often gets the excited comment, “The books are here!” Some people have collected all issues.

The vision for HLM is solid but not stagnant. In the future, Peter would like to see a larger magazine with more pages. Something like Our State, but better, of course. Publishing each issue of HLM is like painting a long bridge. Once you’ve finished, you have to begin again. It is an intense process that requires a team effort.

Peter said Ovid Bell Press in Missouri has been “fantastic” at printing the magazine, and provided goals and benchmarks to help it be successful. Peter and designer Janna work well together. She vows that “no ad will be left behind.” Peter said Janna “has a great deal of ownership in whatever she does,” and “always runs in positive directions.” Janna said Peter was the “perfect choice” to take over HLM.

The Inspiration

When I interviewed Janna, “I had a dream” is the phrase she used to describe her first thoughts about the magazine 13 years ago. She was the original publisher and is the current designer. As a 24-year veteran designer, she applies her fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her associate’s degree in commercial art and graphic design to every project.

The magazine was inspired by the community where Janna vacationed while growing up. She even had her first date with her husband, Randall, at the lake. After dreaming about the publication, she awoke and made several pages of notes. Then she started working on HLM. Not everyone can look at a blank page and bring a design to life with an image, illustration, and/or copy like Janna can. She owns and operates Blank Page Solutions, https://BlankPageSolutions.com.

Janna said she “always received positive feedback” and one of her most memorable comments was when a reader said the ads looked like “works of art.” Satisfying words to someone who identifies herself as a graphic artist.

Ad Design and Layout

As the designer, it is Janna’s job to make the ads look professional and stand out on the page by using the subtle and almost endless variations in type fonts, colors and spacing. Having good content providers is a great help. Janna said the photographers are tremendous artists and, “the history of the area is brought back to life by the writers.”

Often, Janna’s role is that of counselor on ad design. She said, many times, less is more. An ad that is too wordy may not have the same impact as a simple image with a graphic or well-placed text.

Blank Page Solutions is considered the design leg of the HLM stool but is primarily responsible for “pre-press,” which is what happens to an electronic file before it goes to the printer. In the old non-digital days, a graphic designer would cut and paste printed copy and photographs, then send the art boards to a color separator and hope everything was correct. With digital technology, all of that is now done on the computer. It’s still exacting and critical, however.

Page layout, margins, colors, fonts and graphics are all Janna’s responsibility, as well as providing a digital representation of the photographs. If a product photograph is low resolution or the lake water is gray instead of blue, no one is happy. I have had the privilege of shooting for Janna and Peter. It is good to work with a team of professionals. Most of all, it is good to work with people who care about the product.

Printing Hyco Lake Magazine

Working with other professionals is a key to successful publishing and Janna speaks highly of Ovid Bell Press. She has worked with them for years and said they produce “a quality product.”

Located in Fulton, Mo., Ovid Bell Press has been printing HLM since the beginning. The press specializes in monthly and quarterly full color publications and provides a comprehensive service to customers. The website is: https://www.ovidbell.com.

The print shop has been in business for 96 years, and is primarily family owned. Forty percent of its printed products are magazines. When the Berrys took over the publishing reins at HLM, they looked around for other printers, but found no one who could compete.

Ovid Bell Press staff members care about what they produce. Part of the secret to their success and longevity in the industry is their commitment to their customers' success. In fact, they are still printing a periodical from The Journal of the Missouri Medical Association, their first client. It is the relational emphasis in the company that stands out.

When HLM comes into the shop, goes to the pressman, and ultimately to the fulfillment department that bands and ships the magazine, there is a relational thread and the customer’s vision is known by all who work on the project. Out of the 110 staff members at the shop, 16 to 20 will directly work on HLM over the course of a week.

In this digital era, when electronic publications seem to overwhelm people at every turn, it is a challenge to manage a large-scale printing operation. Gary Cundiss, the pressroom manager, has had ink under his fingernails for 39 years and knows how critical the press operation is to producing a magazine worth viewing, reading, and keeping. He cites staying current on industry trends as one of the reasons Ovid Bell is able to keep pace and stay profitable.

HLM takes full advantage of Ovid Bell Press’s facilities. The magazine comes in as a digital file and is paginated. It then travels to the press and on to the bindery. That is where literally everything comes together before it is shipped. There are many layers from concept to final product and they all have to work fluidly to ensure the expected outcome.

Lori Teel, an Ovid Bell representative who works on HLM, said working on community publications is like taking a “mini-vacation.” She makes mental notes of places she would like to see or visit. Laura Wright, another account representative for HLM, said, “Part of the joy of working on Hyco Lake [Magazine] is that everyone on the team is so friendly. The rapport is nearly instantaneous. After that, it becomes a meeting with friends every time we discuss schedules or production.”

The value of a particular thing can sometimes be hard to realize because it is often not instantaneous. The farmer tills, sows, waters, weeds, and then harvests but the value of the food isn’t realized until I partake. So it is with the publishing of a community periodical like Hyco Lake Magazine. From vision and content to design and publishing, the value of it is still being realized. Magazines in general may be diminishing but magazines with value will stay. Partake and enjoy.

Not only can Paul write but he is a professional commercial photographer and video producer. He likes to say he has spent many years working on his overnight success.

As an FAA certified drone pilot, aerial video and stills are also services he provides. Paul Liggitt Photo & Video, 336-322-1167, www.PLphoto.com