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A Letter From the Publisher: Oct. 10, 1988

2 minute read
Robert L. Miller

TIME is always prepared to adjust its deadlines in order to cover an important news story. But if we stretch them too far, an issue may be days late reaching its readers. So, for our coverage of last week’s debate between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, we decided to try something no other national magazine has ever done: stop the presses on Sunday night to insert a story in issues that would be in the mail and on newsstands Monday morning. The job of overseeing the effort fell to TIME production director Martin Gardner and TIME U.S. operations manager Oliver Knowlton. Says Gardner: “It was like a military operation.”

The battle plan required clockwork coordination from an army of TIME staffers. As millions of Americans tuned in to watch the Bush-Dukakis face- off, a team of writers and editors gathered at the Time-Life Building in New York City to begin working on the two-page story. Meanwhile, Knowlton, art director Rudolph Hoglund and picture editor Michele Stephenson were at the Home Box Office studio production center in Manhattan taking color images of the debate from television.

At 11 p.m. the photographs were beamed via satellite to printing plants located around the U.S. By 12:30 a.m. the edited story had arrived. At 2 a.m. the presses began to roll in East Greenville, Pa., and in Old Saybrook, Conn., where Gardner was standing by with a squadron of six planes and three helicopters waiting to airlift the magazines to major cities.

The first copies were loaded onto the aircraft by 4:30 a.m. TIME hit the newsstands in Washington at 8:30, in New York City by 9, and Los Angeles by 7. In all, the story on the debate appeared in roughly half of TIME’s 5.3 million copies. We wish the story had appeared in all of them, but reluctantly decided that the resulting delay in reaching our readers would have drained much of the news value from our story. We’re proud of that story, and for those of you who missed it, we recommend our report in this issue that, with the aid of a TIME poll, assesses the impact of the debate on the campaign.

Gardner, his mission focused on delivering the updated copies, will never forget his flight aboard one of the delivery planes. Says he: “I knew right then that production was a lot more glamorous than everybody thinks.”

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