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Q&A on The Harmonizer magazine

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Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about The Harmonizer:

When am I getting my next edition of The Harmonizer?

It’s in the mail. (I finished it earlier in the week while we were in Ahaheim, so unfortunately, the staff didn’t have time to copy edit a couple of sections!) You’ll probably have it sometime this week, unless you’re in Canada, in which case you’re getting it when Canada’s post office is good and ready to deliver it! (We’re working on that, but a lot of this is unfortunately out of our hands!)

What’s in the upcoming issue?

The cover story is about a barbershopper who is little known outside the Rocky Mountain District, but is representative of some of the other great barbershoppers you’ve never heard of. Phil Ricks — remember that name, but if you’ve never met the guy, you’re not going to. He died a few weeks before I traveled to Rexburg, Idaho to photograph and research the story. He was not known for his singing, but few barbershoppers have brought so much harmony to so many people in so little time.

We also have an interview with Mark Hale where he discusses 14 things any quartet can learn from OC Times, even if they have no competitive ambitions. And we have a recap of the slam dunk Vocal Majority appears at the ACDA convention in March.

More answers about schedule and content after the jump.

What’s the cover date on that issue?

May/June 2009.

Um … isn’t it now July?

Tell me about it.

Why have the issues been so far behind for so long?

To make a long story short, when Brian Lynch took over the magazine in July of 2004, The Harmonizer was only half his job–he was the techology guy as well. It’s mostly due to his heroics and overtime that the magazine didn’t fall further behind schedule, but it did fall behind. Not long after Ed Watson became CEO, he and Brian lured me back to the job I’d helmed from Jan. 2000 to July 2004 and I worked on the magazine as a freelancer from Layton, Utah while the staff prepared for a transition to Nashville.

I caught up about six weeks of schedule (a pretty excruciating process, if I say so myself) before finally moving to Nashville almost a year after everyone else. Though headquarters did everything to make this a smooth transition, we went through a nightmarish housing saga that took incredible amounts of time and lost much of the schedule we’d gained. However, we’re settled and happy now and on pace to make up a couple of weeks per issue.

How do I contribute to the magazine?

Send articles and photos to harmonizer@barbershop.org if it’s something you suspect will be less than a page in the magazine. Embed the words into the email or send as a Word attachment. Send photos as JPEGs, if possible making it the full-size jpeg that left the camera. If the attachment is under 10MB, I’ll have no problem getting it.

If you have something in mind for a longer piece, contact me by email or by phone (800-876-7464 x4132) so we can talk about things before you get too deep in the writing process. Of course, you may have noticed that folks who are commenting at barbershopHQ.com are sometimes seeing their insights making it directly into the magazine.

Why do we have barbershopHQ.com? The Society already has a website — why two?

We’ve only scratched the surface of how we hope to use barbershopHQ.com in the future. Bottom line is, Society members needed a better way to know what their staff and leaders were doing and want a better way to insert themselves into the overall decision loop. The Harmonizer’s two-month turn-around is very constricting, and the type of conversations we have and plan to have on barbershopHQ.com would distract from “public face” mission we’re returning to for barbershop.org. The Harmonet belongs to everyone, it is not an official channel, and it lacks many of the features and formats needed to carry on the kinds of official public conversations that have been lacking in the past.

It took a lot of time to get barbershopHQ.com going (launching it didn’t harm The Harmonizer schedule, but it didn’t help catch up schedule either). Society leaders are committed to ensuring higher transparency and two-way communication with members, and barbershopHQ.com is an important component of that ongoing dialog. The linkage will continue to increase between barbershopHQ.com, barbershop.org, The Harmonizer and other communication vehicles.

Wait, we weren’t done talking schedule: When will the cover date for The Harmonizer actually be right again?

As fast as possible without putting out a poor quality publication in order to do so. I won’t commit to a timeline, lest I set up false expectations. No one is more annoyed by this schedule thing than me. As always, I’m working plenty of overtime on this.

Why not just skip an issue and catch up on cover dates?

This magazine has been published bi-monthly since 1941, and we’ll probably continue that schedule long after most of us are dead. Years from now, no one will remember or care about my stupid housing drama–they’ll just wonder why there were five issues one year and try to figure out which one was missing. We’re not going to address a short-term annoyance at the expense of the bigger picture.

Why not make a few smaller issues, just until it’s caught up?

Not a bad idea! Also, a bit easier said than done. Too small and we could miss some mighty important things. We will try to create a few smaller issues (your total page count per year won’t be affected) until the cover dates match up. An exception will be the upcoming convention issue. (It is among other things an historical piece that people prefer stay on the detailed side, and it’s pretty time-consuming no matter what.) July’s issue might be a tad smaller if I can pull it off, and Nov/Dec ’09 and Jan/Feb ’10 as well. Again, getting the cover dates in synch is very important, but we won’t short-change members to do it.

When will The Harmonizer be available online?

Once the new barbershop.org launches (you’re gonna LOVE it!), that’ll rise a bit higher on Eddie Holt’s to-do list. We haven’t had a full-time web guy in so long, but we’ve made up for it by getting a great one!

What can we look for in terms of coming Harmonizer content?

The next issue’s cover story will feature Dick Van Dyke, 10 years to the month since the last time he appeared on The Harmonizer cover. Sept/October will be the convention wrap-up (please share your ideas by commenting on this post). In the future, we’re going to be running a lot more content about how to make your weekly chapter meeting as inviting and exciting as possible. If you have story ideas along those lines, contact me and we’ll talking about where you might fit on the editorial agenda.

How do I give general feedback on The Harmonizer?

Again, you can share it with me directly. Also, you should know that we’re planning on a major reader survey in coming months to help the magazine focus on what you most want to read about. Look for details on that in coming issues of The Harmonizer, at barbershop.org and here at barbershopHQ.com. The challenge with the survey is, we need the feedback of our less technology savvy readers as much as anyone elses’s. We have to figure out how to create a paper version of the survey that won’t take years to input by hand.

[UPDATE: Here’s a question I just answered for a Canadian member:]

As a Canadian, why do I get my copy of The Harmonizer so much later than many U.S. barbershoppers?

Some background:

  • As soon as The Harmonizer is printed, the Canadian copies are sorted by region and immediately trucked to Toronto, where Canada’s post office distributes the issues according to a non-profit postal agreement very similar to the one used in the states.
  • We’re using the largest printer in the world, and it’s cheaper for us to use their private distribution system. They ship the U.S. copies of The Harmonizer (along with other publications) closer to the final zip codes before the magazines are released to the U.S. Postal service. The majority of the U.S./Canada difference in time of arrival is due to the fact that our printer’s trucking system can distribute more quickly than Canada’s post office is required to distribute at the non-profit rate.

Due to different postal regulations, our printer doesn’t have the same options in Canada as it does in the U.S. I’ve looked at some options to speed up Canada’s mail delivery, but they’re all third-party vendors and our printer reps haven’t been especially impressed with many of them. I’ve learned that improving Canadian mail times is not a small project. Canadian subscribers will probably get their magazines sooner overall if I take that time to catch up on the overall schedule before experimenting with the third-party Canadian mail distributors.

Any other questions? Leave your comments on this post and I’ll try to answer them as often as possible. Thank you everyone for your contributions to the magazines and to your patience with the schedule! It’s great to be a barbershopper!

Lorin May

Editor, The Harmonizer

Administrator, barbershopHQ.com