Unsung Heroes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Publishing is hard. Just ask Robert Johnson, the Managing Editor of this blog. Every week you can come here and read three new articles on Freemasonry and then go about your business. Very simple. There is a lot, however, going on behind the scenes to bring those articles to you. He faces some of the same problems publishers have had since Gutenberg's brainstorm gave us movable type. That said, Right Worshipful Brother Robert has a "leg up" on some publishers when it comes to getting those articles to you. Once he has gone through the process of reading, editing, spell-checking and making sure an article is appropriate he heads for his computer and… presto-change-o! He hands it to you on the Internet, that land of science and technology with a bit of magic thrown in.

Given that, consider the life of a Brother… say… a quarter-century ago. The Internet was there but not for him and not for his Lodge. For that Brother to get a Masonic publication at home it was going to come to him through one portal… his mailbox.

This method of delivery presented a few extra steps and challenges for publishers back then. Still, it was kind of an easy process for the Brother receiving the publication. He brought in the mail, grabbed his pipe and slippers, sat back in his easy chair and spent some quiet time reading the latest Masonic magazine or newsletter. When you think about it, given the frenetic lives people live today and the fact they always seem to be staring at some kind of screen, getting publications that way can be a nice change of pace; and some of them still come that way, don't they? Many state magazines, The Royal Arch Mason, Knight Templar magazine, The Scottish Rite Journal — are hard-copy publications. They are also larger-scale operations with budgets, and in some cases a staff, that can get the job done.

It's also likely you receive other publications like newsletters and bulletins from smaller Masonic groups. Consider the work it takes to get those to your mailbox. The people who distribute these smaller publications face the same issues as bigger publishers, but have to rely on volunteer help, a bit of creativity and hard work to get those items to your door.

Judy VanVickle edits one such publication, the High Twelve Highlights, in St. Joseph Missouri. Her sixteen-page monthly newsletter has a circulation of 260 and what she does is typical of the work other small-publication editors have to do.

"I use Microsoft Publisher for most of the work," she says. "Some of the articles come in Microsoft Word format while some are in longhand. I have to type the handwritten articles myself. I have a standard layout and Publisher usually handles the formatting. I get clip-art from lots of places and use that and cartoons to fill any empty spaces."

Once the layout is complete she sends the file to a professional printer who prints and collates the pages. "Then," says Judy, "we have a 'stuffing party.' We fold, staple, crease and stuff the envelopes and get everything ready for bulk mailing." She says she serves donuts at the party, which seems to be as much fun as work. Judy always includes the names of her helpers in the newsletter.

The Highlights newsletter is ad-supported. This helps defray the cost of the printing and mailing but adds more work to the process. Individual members divide up the work of selling the ads then the group's Treasurer, Brother Al Patterson, sends the artwork to Judy, ready to insert in the newsletter.

Judy realizes the newsletter would be less work and expense online, "but," she says, "so many of our readers just don't make use of the Internet."

So the next time you go to your mailbox and find one of these small publications, remember the men and women getting the newsletters and bulletins out are some of the unsung heroes of our craft. Then, with or without pipe and slippers, enjoy the product from these small but important Masonic quarries.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

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