Despite the onset of a global pandemic during the middle of their production process, the creators of AgriLeader Magazine banded together to get the Fall 2020 edition into the hands of its readers.
Every semester, students in Agricultural Communications and Journalism 405 create a new issue of AgriLeader Magazine, the official magazine of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The students began planning the magazine in January, but encountered an unforeseen disruption when COVID-19 forced Aggies to go online in March. In spite of this, the Fall 2020 edition was released last week and will soon be released online at agrileader.tamu.edu.
The magazine’s graphic designer, Lauren Olivia Smith, said they had an advantage because the pandemic hit mid-semester after bonds between the students had been formed.
“It was definitely a challenge and a set-back we didn’t anticipate,” Smith said. “But what was so wonderful about it is we already had half the semester in person, so we all knew each other pretty well, and whenever the pandemic did happen it was a lot easier to rely upon those relationships that we had already made.”
Professor Tobin Redwine, Ph.D., said he recalls his first time teaching the class fondly and is proud of his students and their determination to complete the production of the magazine.
“It was a challenge because it was my first time and because the pandemic happened in the middle of the semester,” Redwine said. “Despite all those challenges, the students rallied together and were able to come through with a magazine that I think is truly great.”
Redwine said producing the magazine is a very collaborative, hands-on experience, which the team replicated by using Zoom and Google Drive, as well as frequent phone calls and text messages.
“Our staff leaders committed to finishing it, even though it would require more effort to do so virtually,” Redwine said. “In particular, our graphic designers and editors really worked to make that collaboration happen.”
Redwine said the students have to sell enough ad space to pay for the printing run, which was difficult when businesses started closing their doors.
“We were almost at our goal of ads sold for the issue when we started realizing that businesses were shutting down,” Redwine said. “We had a couple of businesses that said they couldn’t buy an ad, though they initially said they would.”
AgriLeader advertising manager Mackenzie Weadock said the shutdown presented a moral dilemma.
“We were dealing with clients who we were asking for money or had just gotten money from who are now having to close their doors.” Weadock said. “I think we struggled with the question of ‘Do we still go to print?’”
Weadock said she and the other students debated this query for several weeks and had to dig deep in order to make a final decision.
“We had to sit down and recognize that yes, we get money from our clients, but we’re also a service to them. We had to sit down and recognize the value of our magazine and what it did for people,” Weadock said. “We realized that our magazine is good for people. It’s good for people to read. It’s good for businesses.”
Smith said she cannot thank those local businesses enough for their unwavering support and coming through during a period of mutual plight.
“I’m really happy we made that decision and they made a huge sacrifice in a really trying time,” Smith said. “We wouldn’t have had a magazine if it hadn’t been for our awesome local businesses supporting us.”
The process of getting the magazine to print during a pandemic was complicated, Weadock said, but students agreed it was worth it.
“It was definitely different and somewhat of a challenge, but we were really lucky to be under such good leadership from our professor, as well as our editorial staff that did everything they could to build community virtually,” Weadock said.