Publishing in a Pandemic

a special section on Covid-19’s effect on the publishing industry.

Words by the Backmatter team

Illustrations and Photos by Hector Gutierrez

“We were planning to do a section called “The Social Life of Ideas,” where we took a bestselling book and tracked how it evolved from the first germ of an idea to dominating the cultural conversation. Then the apocalypse arrived and social life as we know it died…So we chucked that section and replaced it with a survey about how coronavirus has affected our lives, as students and as publishers.” – Taia Handlin, Editor-in-Chief.

Enjoy our Corona content, specially written and curated by our Back matter staff.

Photo taken at Printed Matter. Pictured far-right: Art Director Alexa Mauzy-Lewis.

Do you have any oppor- tunities related to publishing that have disappeared or been indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19?

Hector Gutierrez, Marketing and Coms Director

Yes. I was interviewing for internships at publishing houses and magazines, but since the situation worsened, many of those companies have paused their hiring process or cancelled their internship programs entirely. I’m still applying to jobs and did get opportunities but in areas outside of publishing, like marketing, social media, and design.

Soobin Hong, Design Team


Peter Okeugo, Associate Editor

I applied for and got selected for the 2020 ProPublica Diversity
Scholarship, to attend The Association of LGBTQ Journalists 2020 National

Alice Aparicio, Publisher

Not really. The main problem is the number of job offers on the market. I am graduating in May and there are barely any job offers in the publishing world. It’s gonna make my
immigration situation complicated.

Alexa Mauzy-Lewis, Art Director

I feel like 80% of the graduate summer internships I applied for, mostly editorial and in newsrooms, have been canceled. I also freelance write, and many publications have completely slashed their freelancer budgets.

Shulokhana Khan, Managing Editor

I haven’t heard back from any of the internships that I applied to and some have sent emails saying that they have all been canceled for the near future.

Ilene Anders, Digital Designer

At first I said no, I didn’t think it had affected me that much because I had been waiting to look for a full time job until the end of the semester…but recently I started searching and became a little overwhelmed by the minimal opportunities. I feel like I am waiting around to see something I like appear; it could test my patience in the future, but I try to be optimistic.

Where do you get your news?

Annika Lammers, Creative Director

To be honest, I have been trying not to look at the news lately.

Alexa, Art Director

I, masochistically, get a lot of news from Twitter. I follow the usual suspects like NYT, WaPO, AP, etc., but also more leftist publications and reporters. I usually listen to NPR’s daily morning news podcast most days of the week as I get ready for the day. Now that my definition of morning has been greatly warped by the current situation, this is less regular.

Soobin, Design Team

Mostly for news on
COVID-19, I’ve been going on Naver a lot which is the Korean version of Google. They have information about each city and district updating the number of people who have been tested positive each day and a very thorough description of the places they’ve visited so that people know where to avoid. I also get emergency texts from the government multiple times throughout the day with updated news and also an informative app that I was required to use for weeks upon arrival to track my health and location.

Shulokhana, Managing Editor

Unfortunately enough: Twitter. I do try to read the CNN email blasts and I’m very resistant to sensational headlines so I’ll do a search when I see suspicious Twitter trends to confirm if it’s real and to what extent.

Hector, Marketing and Coms Director

I read the New York Times every morning to check updates. Although, I’ve been trying to limit the news intake.

What publi-cations are you reading at the moment?

For news, or for fun?

Shulokhana, Managing Editor

I’m constantly scrolling through the shopping listicles in fashion magazines and talking myself out of buying skincare that I definitely don’t need. Also: Bon Appetit!

Taia Handlin, Editor-In-Chief

Literally nothing is fun to read rn.

Alice, Publisher

BuzzFeed is keeping it light but also annoying.

Soobin, Design Team

To be honest I don’t read that often. I scroll through instagram and read short texts but anything longer I tend to lose interest very quickly. One magazine that I order every issue is 1 Granary, which is a fashion magazine created by Central Saint Martins students.

Alexa, Art Director

I’ve been really into work published by The Point’s Quarantine Journal during the pandemic.

Annika, Creative Director

I recently finished The Secret Life by Donna Tartt which I absolutely loved.

Peter, Associate Editor

I mostly read The New York Times because I receive daily briefings of what’s being reported every morning. In addition, I read either The Washington Post, The Independent, ProPublica or VICE for supplementary information. For news that isn’t hardcore, I read Medium. For Nigerian news, I read The Punch, Premium Times and Sahara Reporters.

How has the pandemic affected your income?

Peter, Associate Editor

My source of freelance gigs was affected by the lockdown as a result of the pandemic; so it cut off my source of income.

Soobin, Design Team

It hasn’t since I don’t
have an income but it’s definitely affected my learning experience and my tuition feels wasted.

Ilene, Digital Designer

I am a full time student this semester and live at home in Connecticut. I used to do freelance work pre-pandemic to keep up with my finances, but the quarantine and also me being close to graduation has caused me to drop this – I am more focused on finding a full time job for when I graduate during this time (no need for extra money to go to the bar, ha).

Shulokhana, Managing Editor

My on-campus job has kept me on so I haven’t been affected. I’ll lose my job once I graduate in May and I don’t know what to do then except file for unemployment.

Alice, Publisher

It hasn’t but I am working 50% more than before COVID-19 yet I am being paid the same.

Alexa, Art Director

I was let go from my job at a non-profit in development. So very affected.

How immersed do you feel in your work at the moment?

Alberto Echeverri, Marketing

I struggled a bit at the beginning, finding some pace. But in the past three weeks, I have felt more immersed and finding ways to help fellow students in my two on-campus jobs. Also, I’m helping several friends to launch their online stores in Colombia, which has kept me busy.

Pictured left to right: Alberto, Annika, and Alexa working on issue two of Back Matter, at NSSR.

Alexa, Art Director

I feel like I oscillate between doing absolutely nothing for
a few days and then having some days of real intense productivity and investment in my work.

Soobin, Design Team

It’s hard to stay motivated while working from home. It already feels like the end of the semester because I’m usually only home for winter and summer breaks. But I’m trying to get things done one by one and I think I’m slowly getting used to this system.

Annika, Creative Director

It is a tricky time and I definitely fluctuate between moments
of productivity and moments of
feeling particularly uninspired.

Hector, Marketing and Coms Director

Oddly, I feel like I’m working more than before, but it’s also harder to focus or be invested in work because there’s no separation. Working from home blurs the line between the office and off-time.

Taia Handlin, Editor-in-chief

Not really at all.

Does your work involve following the current news? If yes, please specify the nature of your work.

Peter, Associate Editor

My work, presently, is voluntary and involves following the current news but not extensively. It’s an opinion writing and data analysis task, at the intersection of COVID-19 and sustainability.

Shulokhana, Managing Editor

Not really. My publishing focus is books. I don’t really know what to do when school ends – look for remote jobs probably but I can’t say in what field.

Hector, Marketing and Coms Director

Yes. I work as an editor for a magazine and while the content is not entirely journalistic, it does demand us to be up to date on what’s happening.

Alberto, Marketing

General topics, like consumer behaviors and the impact of COVID in the medium term.

Annika, Creative Director

Not really.

Taia, Editor-in-Chief

I’m a journalist of the news, so.

Alexa, Art Director

As a graduate student in a journalism program, yes. I also freelance write so my work IS the current news.

Photo from Socially, Distant, a photo series of a city in isolation.

What were your plans before COVID-19?

What are your plans for when school ends?

Alexa, Art Director

My timeline was to continue to work and be in school, have a summer internship, and then return next semester to work as a teaching assistant and finish my last year of grad school.”

Shulokhana, Managing Editor

“I planned to have an internship this summer, maybe work retail, continue volunteering at Bluestockings bookstore and eventually find a spot in the book publishing industry. Working at Back Matter actually led me to try for magazine jobs as well.”

Alice, Publisher

“Finding a job to keep my visa status. Before COVID-19, my family and friends were meant to come from France for my graduation, I was meant to go to Mexico to visit a friend and to find a job but the two first plans have been cancelled and finding a job has definitely become more challenging.”

Peter, Associate Editor

“When school ends, I will use the opportunity to work on my incomplete coursework; as well as a summer internship. I had planned to register a civic media outfit but I do not see that working at this time.”

Alberto, Marketing

“Probably, going back to Colombia in late summer and doing my Capstone project from there.”

Photo from Socially, Distant, a photo series of a city in isolation.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of our Print issue when it comes out.

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