If you recognize that line, I empathize: your head, like mine, must be filled with the inane and insanely catchy ditties on TV shows beloved by little children. That particular lyric comes from Wonderpets, the grossly adorable show on Noggin in which a guinea pig, turtle and duckling fly from the classroom in which they live to Hawaii or Venice to save another small animal invariably stuck in a tree. It’s scored in semi-operatic style, so the pets’ lines are sung in recitative:
“It’s a baby eee-lephant, stuck in a tree-eee.”
“This is seee-wious!” (Ming-ming, the duckling, has a lisp.)
These lines ran through my head this week as I attempted to co-write a story for the magazine with a colleague. Teamwork defines many people’s jobs. Not mine. Writing is solitary. Reporting isn’t, necessarily, at least under the old TIME model; just a few years ago, maybe a half-dozen correspondents and stringers across the country would have reported a story like this, filing their notes to us, from which we would have crafted a story. No longer. The two of us are both writing and reporting this piece. The reporting isn’t the issue; we each did our part. But pulling our reports into one cohesive, hopefully compelling piece? It’s like building Frankenstein.
It takes a village to make most business projects come to life, and it’s no different where I work. We’ll turn our copy in to an editor, who, after she red-inks it, will turn it over to yet another editor. Then a number of copy editors will pore over it. Meantime two photo editors have arranged for a photographer to fly around the country taking portraits of photo subjects, sources from our story. Those photos and our copy will be placed in a layout created by the designers. Time was, a factchecker would track down all the sources again to verify their quotes, but at the new, lean-’n’-mean TIME we’ll do that ourselves.
A story in TIME magazine is the work of many talented people, each working diligently to mould their stretch of sausage. My co-writer and I are just trying to work on our link together, and we’re finding it a little tricky. When you see the end product, we hope you’ll just enjoy the bratwurst and not ponder the pig we had to kill to make it.