• U.S.

From The Publisher: Oct. 19, 1992

3 minute read
Elizabeth P. Valk

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES TEND TO BE PIVOTAL MOMENTS in most campaigns, and that fact generates a dramatic atmosphere. But on the eve of their first high- stakes face-off, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot weren’t the only ones under extraordinary pressure. Since the debate was scheduled to begin a full day after the magazine’s usual closing time, managing editor Henry Muller made the rare decision to hold presses until Sunday night to accommodate this week’s cover story. We are used to stretching our deadlines occasionally in order to include late-breaking major news, but covering Sunday’s showdown in St. Louis, Missouri, required considerable last-minute coordination and planning. Like the candidates, we had virtually no margin for error.

Overseeing this ambitious effort was production director Brian O’Leary, who admits, “It’s definitely been a nail-biting experience. But I’ve always been good at creating order out of chaos.” The soft-spoken Harvard business school graduate, who spends his free time these days rewiring his suburban New Jersey house, joined TIME in 1983 as assistant operations manager for our international editions. After a three-year assignment setting up and running our production plant in Singapore, and a successful stint as ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s first production director, O’Leary happily returned to TIME two years ago to assume his current job.

As millions of Americans tuned in to watch the candidates’ meeting, a team of staff members assembled at the Time & Life Building in New York City on Sunday night to work on the debate stories. Says chief political correspondent Michael Kramer: “Our aim was to place the presidential debate in the context of the overall campaign, in a way many newspapers haven’t done because they were fixated on the event itself.”

Meanwhile, picture operations manager Kevin McVea was on the scene in St. * Louis to transmit color images directly from the debate, among them the cover photo. By 12:30 a.m. the pictures were beamed via satellite to eight printing plants around the country, including our facility in Saratoga Springs, New York, where a fleet of four twin-engine planes was waiting to airlift the magazines to major cities for early Monday morning arrival. In addition, dozens of extra trucks were hired to speed delivery to our wholesale distributors.

O’Leary’s object was to get all 4.5 million copies into readers’ hands as close to the regular delivery time as possible. Says he: “If we have done our job well, our efforts will be invisible to most people.” But not to his colleagues.

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