The most difficult task was weaning writers and editors off our 14-year-old mainframe system, Atex, and training them on a new one. "Some people held on to their old terminals until the bitter end," says edit-tech manager Janie Greene. "The monitors were these deep, dark boxes. They were like security blankets. Having them removed was symbolic of the end of an era."
But after nearly a year of 70-hour workweeks (and one nightmarish Friday in July when more than 50 stories vanished into the ether), edit-tech director Tom Klein and his staff now have PEOPLE running smoothly on the new system. "It has been a very successful transition," says Klein, noting that everything from editing to laying out the magazine will eventually be easier and more efficient. "The old system was like an express train," he says. "It went to one place fast. Our new system is like a car. It's more flexible. It will take you more places, but you have to learn how to drive it."
An accomplished juggler in his spare time—of Apples and oranges—Klein teaches that same skill to his staff, literally and figuratively. Those lessons come in handy on deadline. When Jerry Garcia died Aug. 9, just as we were going to press, we decided to switch covers. Deputy edit-tech director James Mittelmark was in the office until 6 a.m. babysitting the closing effort. "It was hell," he says, "and really amazing that we pulled it off." Mittelmark was back at his desk 4 hours later, overseeing the first day of the editorial staff's Lotus Notes training classes.
In the months ahead, correspondents will be able to send their files from the field directly into the system. Pictures taken of late-night post-Oscar parties in Los Angeles will be zipped instantly to photo editors in New York City. For writers and editors, "the biggest advantage is that the new system lets you actually work on a layout of the page," says operations manager Alan Anuskiewicz, who helped oversee the transition. Most important, we'll all have more time to get in late-breaking stories. And maybe even a few spare moments for a quick game of Tetris.
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