Every magazine has a masthead. The term originally referred to a brass plate nailed to the mast of a ship that named its sponsors, and in a magazine it retains that sense of ownership by listing the names and titles of all of the individuals involved in producing each issue.
Arranged in a hierarchy of accountability, the list begins with the names of those with the broadest responsibility for the editorial content, including text and images, and their arrangement on the page. Further down, someone with the same title as others but with longer tenure appears higher on the list. The alphabet breaks all ties.
Although these days not many readers pay much attention to it, the masthead is still important because it spells out precisely who is responsible for what. Readers can still consult it to determine to whom, exactly, to address their question, comment, or complaint about a story, a torn cover, or an expired subscription. People in the business use it as a way to keep track of former colleagues and competitors.
For those who work on a given publication, the masthead is a living history of a team. It chronicles the comings and goings of friends and co-workers; it marks the highs and lows of careers; it's a prompt to memory that reminds us of one another.
For nearly seven years, since 2001 when I first arrived at REMODELING magazine, Judy Neighbor's name has appeared on the mast-head just below mine. When Judy and I first met, we were embarked on a redesign of the magazine. Although I was older, I had been in the publishing business for only about 12 years; Judy, for more than 20. I had never redesigned a magazine; Judy was founding art director of RESIDENTIAL ARCHITECT, and had redesigned TOOLS OF THE TRADE, two other magazines that are published by Hanley Wood, which also publishes REMODELING. At the time, I was editor-in-chief and Judy was art director, and in the hierarchy of the masthead, I was her boss, but that was just a technicality. Judy was in a class by herself.
Over the next few months we worked as closely together as I ever have with any colleague. I had a vision for the magazine's editorial mission, for the topics we would cover, the audience we would address; Judy translated those ideas to ink and paper through typography, color, composition, and texture.
Early on, I explained that I thought the magazine had to be structured but informal, attention-getting but restful; plain-spoken but businesslike. She suggested I page through several dozen magazines of all types, and affix sticky notes bearing comments about what I liked and what I didn't, what I thought would resonate with readers and what wouldn't.
Weeks later, when Judy presented me with her preliminary design ideas, all my sticky notes were duly acknowledged and carefully displayed like waypoints alongside the ink-and-paper embodiment of all of those abstract concepts. Such creativity and attention to detail is rare, but it is singular to find it in the complete absence of ego. Judy's goal was to extend and enhance my vision, not to impose hers.
That redesign was the first of many such collaborations. In the next few years, I worked with Judy as she designed three new magazines — REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR, UPSCALE REMODELING, and COASTAL CONTRACTOR — seemingly in her spare time. Man, she was fast, whether designing a logo, a page, a feature story, or an entire magazine. I used to make her laugh when I joked about hanging a shingle at her door with the tagline, “Quality design … in about an hour.”
Creative, fast, smart, unassuming, loyal — these words only begin to describe the qualities she brought to the workplace. Even-tempered, too — Judy had plenty of reasons to express frustration, but I can't remember a single time when she so much as raised her voice or even an eyebrow.
What I do remember is her good humor and compassion. She never forgot a staff birthday, she brought treats to help the design team push through deadlines, and she regularly met with me to talk about how best to advance, not her career, but theirs.
I can hardly remember a time without her, and I didn't think I ever would have to until last month when Judy died unexpectedly of an embolism-induced heart attack. She had just turned 50 in April. Her husband, Charles, says she spent her last weekend doing all her favorite things with him, daughter Anna, son-in-law Dan, and 2-year-old granddaughter Ruth.
Only fate could stop such a big heart. And now the masthead, and our lives, will never quite be the same.
Sal Alfano, Editorial Director