• U.S.

From The Publisher: Nov. 16, 1992

3 minute read
Elizabeth P. Valk

Time’s journalists pride themselves on being able to turn on a dime, producing thoughtful, thoroughly reported stories on very little notice. But our quadrennial presidential-election issue demands deadline journalism on an altogether higher plane. The magazine is coming out a full four days earlier than usual — yet we were determined not to sacrifice the in-depth research and forward-looking analysis that readers have come to expect. Part of the solution: squeeze the interval between final editing and distribution of the magazine from the normal 36 hours down to 12.

For operations director Oliver Knowlton, the work began two months ago, mapping out deadlines for copy, page layouts and photography. By election night, everything was in place. A charter plane stood by in Little Rock, Arkansas, ready to rush a cover picture of President-elect Clinton to an imaging center in Houston for final transmittal (President Bush’s headquarters is in Houston; his picture would have to travel only across town). Says Knowlton: “From a production viewpoint, it’s murder. I swore four years ago I’d never do this to myself again — but here I am.”

The job was also an editorial decathlon. Thanks to Oliver’s airtight deadlines, everything in the magazine had to be written, edited, double- checked for accuracy and put to bed by 6 a.m. Wednesday, no matter how late the returns were. So assistant managing editor Jim Kelly and senior editor Tom Sancton prepared two complete story lists, one in anticipation of a Clinton victory and one in response to the last-minute surge by George Bush. While a few stories appeared on both lists, most hinged on results that wouldn’t be available until the final hours. There would be either a story on what President Clinton will do in office or an analysis of Bush’s upset victory, but not both — yet both had to be in the works. So correspondents with Clinton and Bush and with other crucial candidates sent in a steady stream of interviews and analysis throughout the night, as the staff at TIME’s New York City headquarters fought to put it all together.

For associate editor Priscilla Painton and senior writer Walter Shapiro, it was the end of a long road. Since July one or the other has been at Clinton’s side almost nonstop. Some pundits think this kind of close-in coverage blurs a journalist’s objectivity. Counters Painton: “You can read all the position papers and interview all the campaign staff you like, but there is nothing like spending 17 hours a day with someone to get a feel for his presidential character.”

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