Jason Reynolds to the Rescue
June 6, 2023 at 12:05 p.m.
...by Michelle Roedell, Editor, Northwest Prime Time
Rescuer. That’s the title that comes to mind when thinking of Jason Reynolds, Northwest Prime Time’s handy, dandy designer / production manager.
When we published the print version of our longtime senior newspaper, he laid out the paper, created the design and graphics, ushered ads in on time, prepared everything for the printer. When we made our transition to online-only, his work became more complex. For one thing, he is our trusted advisor on all things tech, which has changed constantly over the years. If he doesn’t know something he will study and figure it out.
Part of me still thinks of Jason as that “kid” who, at the ripe old age of 25, first walked through our office doors in 2005. (We work from home, so he actually walked through the front door of our house.) I remember the time someone knocked, and the fresh-faced Jason answered only to be confronted with the question, “Are your parents home?” Now he’s a longtime married man with two children—his oldest will enter high school in the fall.
I can’t tell you how many times Jason has gotten us out of a scrape, a predicament, an out-and-out mess. Those scrapes usually involved our crazy deadlines and the heroic measures he took in fixing unpredictable, last-minute glitches to ensure that our latest edition always made it to the printer on time, no matter what. We contracted for our press time a year in advance. The presses were booked back-to-back with strictly enforced deadlines: if we missed our scheduled time, we might not get a press date for another week or more! DISASTER!
We met Jason via his mother, Helena Reynolds. From a recent blog, readers may recall that I knew Helena through her work at the Kent Senior Activity Center. (We later learned we were long-lost cousins!) As luck would have it, I happened to mention that we needed a new designer/production manager since Melody was moving to Oregon. We’d inherited Melody, our first production manager, when we took over the former Northwest Prime Time Journal, and so had never actually hired one from scratch. We had no idea the best way to proceed.
“My son Jason graduated with a Graphic Arts degree,” Helena offered. “He’s looking for a job.” That was interesting, not only because we needed a graphic artist, but because we were first-hand witnesses to the whirlwind known as Helena, who managed to complete the work of four people with time to spare, and always with a big smile on her face. If Jason had half his mother’s energy and dedication, it would be a lucky break for us.
We told Helena what a crazy job it was. Stressful. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. It demanded a commitment to all-nighters. Plus, since we had been driving from our place in Des Moines to Melody’s house on the far outskirts of Redmond for those all-nighters, a major requirement for us was the willingness to pull all-nighters at OUR house. With various pets crawling all over the place.
“Oh, he wouldn’t mind that,” she assured us.
As it turned out, she was right. A big stumbling block remained: Jason lived in Richland with his new bride, Julie, who got a nursing job there right out of college. But Jason was having trouble finding a job in his field. “I tried just about everyone in the phone book,” he recalls. He ended up working for Michaels in their custom framing department. At least it was related to his love of art.
“I was miserable,” he reports.
The hardworking Jason was being ricocheted between different bosses with overlapping demands, then getting yelled at for going over his part-time hours. He got yelled at for helping customers at the counter rather than taking his scheduled lunch break—he worked at the desk alone and it just wasn’t in him to leave the customer standing there waiting. He got yelled at for not reporting all his hours that he minimized to stave off getting yelled at for reporting too many hours.
So, Jason was excited to learn about the job opening with Northwest Prime Time. He discussed it with his wife; this led her to inquire about a nursing job in Federal Way, near where Jason’s parents lived (and quite close to us too). We had still not met Jason or offered him the job, but before Julie even completed the application, the hospital called to say they wanted her!
Luck was with us. Jason was moving to Federal Way.
Somewhere along the way, we sent him a test assignment to create a project in InDesign, the program we used for the printer. Jason didn’t know the program, but he stayed up all night reading tutorials and produced a highly professional document that met our deadline with time to spare. He was hired. For a short time, he worked side-by-side with Melody and another seasoned designer before taking over the reins completely.
And we’ve been completely happy with our handy dandy designer / production manager ever since.
A few more details about working with Jason:
Like an athlete preparing for the big game, when it was time to start work, Jason would pull one arm over his head to loosen an old shoulder injury, then interlock his hands while straightening his arms in front to crack his knuckles and, finally, he’d vigorously rub then shake his hands before opening the laptop. Show time!
Jason would remain at our house, working pretty much nonstop, for the next 24 hours. Since Julie worked the night shift at the hospital, this arrangement fit.
Until the kids started to arrive.
Luckily, both kids were so considerate that they entered the world during a lull in our production schedule. Thank you, Jonny and Jonah!
But pulling all-nighters no longer worked for responsible dad Jason. I, myself, was growing too old for that crazy schedule. Chris and I had been trying to figure out how to add more time to our production schedule, but that would mean reducing the time he had for selling ads… he needed that time to to make enough money to run the whole shebang.
To solve the problem, we started publishing 10 times per year instead of every month. Not only did this give us a little break twice a year, but we were able to switch our production schedule from a near-impossible five days to a luxurious two-plus weeks. We still had stressful deadlines, but they were no longer crazy. No more all-nighters!
In addition to gaining more production time, technology was also catching up with us. Jason could send his work-in-progress via email rather than saving it to a disk that he had to physically hand off to me. And now he could download the final product to the printer’s site rather than running a disk to them.
We started doing all our work together via phone and email.
I no longer see Jason in person. When I think back about those crazy deadlines, despite the insanity, I’m glad I had that time with him. The experience allowed me to feel that I got to know the real him. He is friendly, agreeable, talented, smart, hardworking, calm, patient, dependable, uncomplaining, admirable. An all-around good guy.
Countless times over the years, Chris and I have said to ourselves how lucky we are to have Jason on board. (Learn more about Jason, including a super-cute childhood photo, here.)
For some time before the big all-nighter production schedule rolled around, I’d have been hard at work writing articles, collecting columns, going through the piles of new submissions to see what we could use, gathering photos, formatting everything, getting ready. Chris might be finalizing some ad sales, but he was not really part of those crazy nights: he basically had a 9 to 5 job because the advertisers worked 9 to 5. As soon as Chris booked an ad, Jason would get busy building it or collecting it from the advertiser.
We never knew how big the paper was going to be (or how many articles were needed to fill the pages) until after the deadline. Once we knew how much ad revenue we could expect, we then determined the number of pages for the next edition.
At this point, about five days before the printer’s deadline, I’d fax Jason a “dummy” layout, showing the page count and where the articles and ads would go. Then I’d email him completed articles and photos for him to start the layout.
This was before current technology made so many elements of our work easier. It wasn’t quite the dark ages anymore, but today’s production conveniences hadn’t yet been invented.
I would be in constant telephone contact with Jason about the pages, which were too large for him to email. Instead, he would describe his progress page by page: What was missing, were there holes to fill, how many articles had to jump, did we have room for everything, what did we have to cut, what else could we squeeze in…. We’d do as much fine-tuning of the pages before I actually saw the layout in person.
I wouldn’t have the chance to behold our next edition until he arrived at our house for the 24-hour sprint to the finish.
I’d view the pages on his computer, then begin by having him rearrange things as needed. I’d provide content to fill holes, update photos, etc. We’d soon have a decent draft going that Jason would save on a disk…I’d run that disk upstairs and wait for the pages to print out (no wireless connections back then), and the first round of proofing would commence. I’d mark up the pages with changes and corrections, restarting the process, over and over until all the pages were laid out, proofed, corrected, (and the corrections corrected), finalized, all done. Back then in our heyday, we produced 48 pages, 52 pages, once we made it to 60. It was a lot to accomplish in 24 hours.
At certain points in the wee hours of the morning, after soaking my feet in ice cold water to deliver an eye-opening shock to the system while downing yet another cup of coffee, I would continue proofing while Jason caught a few minutes of shuteye on the couch. As we neared the printer’s deadline, the final proof had me making corrections right on Jason’s laptop, forgoing the printout to save time. Despite being the publisher, I am not tech-savvy; I was always terrified during this part that I’d click the wrong button on his laptop and ruin everything.
So we’d work through the night, then through the next day until the paper was done. The moment the file was complete, we’d run the disk to printer to await the final, official printer’s proof.
But that wasn’t all. Because we were always in such a hurry, we left the calendar section blank until after all the other pages were complete. This gave us a little wiggle room for last minute ads or if some article unexpectedly had to jump there. Then, while we waited for the printer’s proof, I’d get back to work finalizing the calendar (a tedious, time-consuming job that I dreaded after a night with no sleep).
Once we received the printer’s proof, the presses were hot and smoking, waiting on our final okay to get going. Sometimes even then Jason would have to swoop in to make a last moment correction because of an incompatible font style in one of the ads that had arrived at the last minute, or some such thing.
In the end, somehow, we always made it.
In case you missed them, you can catch up on past blog posts with the links below:
- My First Blog Post
- Luck, Pluck and Schemes: On becoming a first-time publisher
- Who Is That Cover Boy?
- Goodbye and Hello
- Our Very Own Field of Dreams
- A Northwesterner’s New York Pride
- The Nun with the Heart of a Newspaper Woman
- You Fool Me Every Time, Old Man
- Call in the Bomb Squad!
- A Parade of Pets
- What's in a Name?
- The Grand Prize: When I met Sy Rosen
- It's a Small World