During the 1980’s, Ocean Reef Member John Hartman wrote a whimsical gossip column (sometimes authored by his golden retriever, Boris) in the Key West Free Press. In January 1990, this morphed into the first Ocean Reef stand-alone insert, a single page loose flysheet enclosure in the Free Press. Over the next decade-and-a-half, our Ocean Reef Press grew into an independent publication of its own. The publisher in Key West sold ads, kept the profits, and delivered our papers for free. But the content was written outside, and the quality of the paper and printing was poor. Vicki Goldstein started an Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) to help improve the content, photography and make the paper more representative of ORC. They met every week on Friday mornings and reviewed the paper. It improved as much as could be expected with the aging presses and long distance relationship.
So with some prompting, the Club decided to take more control.
Arthur Birsh, the distinguished publisher of PLAYBILL, was the prime mover in the transformation. After analyzing the ad revenue and printing costs, Arthur advised Richard Weinstein (over a three-hour lunch) that Ocean Reef should self-publish. Finding the right printer was a challenge because our press run was small and our quality expectations were high, but Richard got to work. Arthur redesigned the page size, revised the layout, created a rate card for advertising sales, and critiqued each issue for the staff. Richard says, “Arthur made me into a publisher in a single afternoon.” Our luck with talent didn’t end there: Molly Carroll joined Ocean Reef and brought a new professionalism to communications. Richard and Molly recruited an expanded Editorial Advisory Board. The quality of the content, paper, printing, and photography has continuously improved. Richard said, “Without Arthur and the continued keen participation of the Member driven Editorial Advisory Board, we wouldn’t have a publication this good.”
Here is how the sausage is made: The EAB meets every Friday at 8 a.m. Story ideas are discussed and assignments passed out. Each member of the advisory board (their names listed on the ORP masthead) is expected to be a contributor and has a “beat” to cover. For instance, I concentrate on food and beverage events, the Ocean Reef Yacht Club, and bikini violations on Buccaneer Island (“always vigilant” is my motto). Longtime EAB member Joan Birsh is not only “Joan the Shopper,” but also focuses on performing arts and Member profiles as well as tricky dress codes and other issues, which require clever writing. Another longtimer, Gert Mann, has chronicled everything from the Art League and Chapel to Associates and Ocean Reef Players. Other EAB members similarly cover areas of special interest. Many Club departments and organizations send in their own regular reports (always welcome) to complete the picture.
The Communications Department writes the lead stories and takes most of the photographs. Molly Carroll’s staff collects and edits the stories. Our talented in-house designer creates the layout for each page, choreographing photos, captions, ads, and content. The intricate details for recurring and new weekly events are updated. Sometimes midnight oil is burned. Usually, the paper is ready to go to print by midafternoon on Thursday. The digital file is transmitted to our Miami printer, where it is printed overnight, with a series of terse emails: “plates made,” “on the press,” “drying,” “folding,” “cutting,” and finally, “shipped,” – five thousand copies mailed to Members and/or distributed to points around The Reef on Friday morning in time for an EAB critique. Whew. Every day has a deadline. And then it starts all over again. It may be the Communications staff’s job, but it is also a labor of love. Arthur Birsh says, “I believe the people involved are doing a fantastic job. A self-supporting, all color, weekly paper with 36 – 64 pages is a Herculean task.”