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Editing in the age of technology

I’ve been writing for and editing FAITH for about 10 years. As I look back across those years, I’m amazed at how the process of putting words on paper and editing those words has changed.

When FAITH was just getting started in 2000 and 2001, I used to make a weekly visit to our offices. Each week’s visit was slightly different, based on where that month’s magazine was in its production cycle. Once every month, I would meet with staff as we planned a future issue. Often we would share stories over doughnuts and coffee, brainstorming together, dreaming up new ways to tell stories of faith. Some weeks, I would sit at a desk and review rough copy for each story. This meant reviewing actual pages, printed on real paper, with trusty red pen in hand, making corrections as needed. Other weeks, I would see and edit a printed layout of the entire magazine. Finally, once each month, I would see the “proof” copy of the magazine. This was the last opportunity to review and correct anything before ink started hitting paper on the printing presses. My, how things have changed since then.   

Today, I rarely have a printed copy of anything to hold in my hands as the magazine is being assembled and readied for print. What used to be a pen-to-paper process for writing and editing has become mostly digital. I can sit at a computer screen pretty much anywhere and do what I used to do during my weekly visits to FAITH’s offices. Between email and the Web, I have the same kind of access to whatever is in production. My red pen has morphed into a computer mouse and the paper it writes on is really just a collection of electrons displayed on a screen. When everything is tweaked, finalized and ready, those electrons get sent directly to a printing press, which produces the magazine that you are holding in your hands. These electronic advances in magazine creation and production, placed in the hands of an incredibly talented and dedicated staff, make it possible for FAITH to partner with a number of dioceses across the United States to produce editions that can be easily tailored to the needs of each diocese. The current process we use is efficient, flexible, dependable and helps us to produce a high-quality magazine. I also readily admit there is no way that we could do what we do today at FAITH without it.

Yet I find that I miss the original process of paper, pens, and more personal contact. I certainly appreciate the fact that our current production process helps me to more easily balance the variety of demands on my time, both for the parish and for FAITH. But I also miss the more “old fashioned” way of producing the magazine – a way that was a bit more time-consuming, messier and more personal.

As we continue to email, blog and Tweet our way into an increasingly electronic future, we should not forget that God has called us first and foremost to be human beings who live in face-to-face relationship with one another. The technology we use should make life simpler, not less personal. It should encourage and support dignified communication, not anesthetize our ability to be courteous to one another in spoken or written word. Technology, when properly employed, should help us to become more human, not less.

And so our journey in FAITH continues.