A Great Creative Team

The brave team behind Urbana Today

Last week, I had the chance to work with a great creative team. We worked crazy hours to produce Urbana Today, the daily newspaper for the Urbana Missions Conference. [For more on Urbana 12, check out urbana.org]

I am so pleased with what we produced. The papers looked beautiful. Over 45,000 copies were read during the conference. And we told great, creative stories.


Here's who I had the chance to work with ...

Gary the Artist: Gary is an extremely talented designer. He's worked on Urbana design since the 80's. He is an illustrator and loves to comfort "widows and orphans in their distress" (apparently that's a designer joke). In the tension of deadlines, I saw him sweat but never heard him complain. I don't know what he would say, but I think he and I became friends over the course of our time at Urbana.

Courtney the Omnipresent: It seemed like Courtney did all the design for Urbana. Every sign, every significant piece of branding ... it all reflected her hard work. She communicated very directly and knew her work inside and out. She also had a very healthy work-rhythm. When she was on, she was fully present. When I asked her to take a break, she really took a break. I wish I could be more like her.

Abri the Prolific: Abri was the only person I knew from real life. She was a friend and former student from W&L. She teaches in Kansas and writes professionally in her free time. And she has the capacity to produce line after line of excellent copy in almost no time at all. When I needed someone to double or triple-down and write extra articles, she was willing to jump right in. She knew more about newspaper editing than anyone else there, but she was willing to help where she was needed. She displayed two metric tons of humility, as usual.

Pauline the Perfectionist: Pauline kept and kept working on her articles. She self-edited. She improved and improved her work before she turned it in. And her articles were perfect. When we had to make cuts for length, every lost word hurt. In her day job, Pauline works for a bank. And if her presence on our team is any indicator, I'm sure she holds the ship together there. On our team, she was the person who was most deeply engaging with God during the conference. She helped us keep our focus.

Lauren of the Perfect Process: Lauren joined our team a day late and hit the ground running. Immediately, I noticed Lauren's writing process. She kept perfect notes and caught perfect quotes. She had an ear for quotes. People would talk to her ... talk and talk ... and she would know exactly what needed to be quoted in the paper. She had the disciplines in place to do this work every day.

Ben the Canadian: Ben also had a great writing process, don't get me wrong. But Ben brought something extra to the table. He was the only Canadian on the team. At a conference hosted by the organizations from both Canada and the USA, his voice proved to be immensely valuable. And he didn't shy away from pitching stories with Canadian interest or listening for a Canadian angle on the stories.

Justin the Present: I have no idea where Justin came from. He was sitting in our section as we were getting started. He introduced himself as a writer. And before he (or I) knew it, he was picking up stories and writing with a lot of boldness. He interviewed Andy Mineo and David Platt without showing any nerves. He bailed us out of a tight spot. I don't know what we would have done without that extra writer. He was a gift from God.


So, that's my Urbana Today team.

We had photographers working alongside us, real artists who thought deeply about every aspect of their shots. We also had archivists making sure good photographs didn't go to waste.

And we had management - Bethany and Christy - making sure the wheels stayed on the bus.

On the team, I was the odd-man-out. High school newspaper and yearbook. Some classes in college. Blogging personally and for InterVarsity. Editing student assignments. Advance reading for IVPress. Certainly not the qualifications of a newspaper Editor.

I found out on-site that previous Urbana Today Editors have been professional journalists and journalism professors. I didn't even know the difference between a "center spread" and a "double truck." I was grossly under-qualified.

But here's what I learned, even though I was under-qualified ...

A great creative team can get the job done if led well, even if the leader lacks creative experience.

I'll write tomorrow about the leadership techniques and qualities that made this possible.

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