By James Poole | May 14 2013 18:03

Joe Graham left the business world to help deliver NRA's message

Joe Graham, Executive Director of NRA Publications Fairfax, Virginia - The National Rifle Association publishes six monthly magazines; American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s 1st Freedom, NRA InSights, Shooting Illustrated, and Shooting Sports USA. And the man responsible for it all, one way or another, is Joe Graham.

“Publications is a crucial arm of the organization,” says Graham “It is the number one way members receive our information.”

As Executive Director of NRA Publications, Graham has spent the last 13 years doing just that — getting out the information. Making that happen requires an incredible amount of effort. Writing the stories, producing the art, and hitting your deadline means there is never time for a dull moment.

Simply said, he's a hardworking businessman who truly cares about the NRA and its Publications Division, or “Pubs” as it is known around NRA Headquarters.

Mr. Graham, the Man

For Graham and his family, hunting was always a way of life. Raised in more of a country than city setting, his father taught him the benefit of providing for family through hunting. He served in Vietnam, was vice president of marketing for a Fortune 500 company and was content with living in California. He'd still be there today if it wasn't for NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

In a private meeting, LaPierre gave Graham what boils down to a patriotic pitch on joining the cause. It must have been something, because soon afterward, Graham made the long move from California to NRA Headquarters in Northern Virginia.

NRA Pubs in a Shell

The Pubs Division is broken down into three general areas. Business is responsible for running the numbers, dealing with advertisers, and ensuring profitability. Editors provide the articles. Finally, the artists are in charge of graphic design, photography, and making the magazines visually appealing. An average of 3.7 magazines are printed each month. Physically, that translates into 8 boxcars full of paper.

Display Case with the latest NRA Publications
Display Case with the latest NRA Publications

American Rifleman is the NRA’s longest running magazine with a 127-year history. Publishing techniques were a little different back then. Today, with six magazines to produce, staff relies upon a 12-month timeline for each magazine to keep everyone on schedule. The timeline includes the deadlines as well as the date readers are predicted to receive their magazines.

An NRA publication begins with an editorial calendar and follow a deadline-filled process. The annual editorial calendar contains all the general topics that will be covered in each issue. The topics for each issue are picked based on reader interest such as turkey season in March, deer season in November, and Camp Perry in August.

Once all of the articles are gathered, the pagecast is created. The pagecast shows the magazine’s layout with advertisements and other design elements. Next a "For Placement Only" (FPO) document is produced. This document is essentially a rough draft of the magazine. After a series of tweaks and corrections, it is time to create the final version (blueline). It is reviewed by several people (including Graham) before it receives the green light for printing or online posting (InSights and SSUSA are digital only).

An important part of planning for each issue is settling on the number of pages. Why so important? Because adding or removing a “signature” (pages are added in groups of four in a print magazine) can adjust the cost by a significant amount. Issues covering important events, national competitions and hunting seasons, for example, sometimes make it necessary to add additional pages. With years of trial and error, this aspect of planning has been all but mastered.

Once the magazine is delivered, it all begins again; research, planning, writing, pictures, layouts and more. With Graham at the helm, despite the usual bumps in the road, it runs as efficiently as a Swiss clock.

“The dedication, commitment, and teamwork of this division remind me of a military mission,” said Graham. “Our role is critical and it is crucial we deliver the NRA message.”

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