Early in my career, I was fortunate to have strong mentors. These men and women—primarily my editors and publishers—instilled in me that my job as a reporter was one small but important part of a much larger manufacturing process. Yes, that is correct—manufacturing.
A lot of people don’t think about how their publications follow a similar assembly-line process like the ones that go into making automobiles or flexible packaging. I was taught to play my part well because it was just one step in a long process that began with gathering raw materials, such as inks and newsprint, long before I wrote a word.
I was reminded of those lessons when I attended an Emerging Leadership Council seminar in October during PACK EXPO International. The daylong seminar, called FlexPack Crash Course, was sponsored by the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) and was held on the last day of PACK EXPO in Chicago.
Organizers created a program that demonstrated what goes into producing a flexible package from start to finish along the supply chain. Each step requires every player do his or her own part to ensure overall success. If one player along the chain is late or can’t deliver—something that happened during COVID-19—then the whole operation can come to a standstill.
The seminar delved into the nitty-gritty, with presentations on inks, resins, substrates, adhesives, primers, and coatings. After lunch, the presentations included overviews of printing, lamination technologies, converting, and end-use applications.
The goal was to give people new to the flexible packaging industry an understanding of the deep complexities behind creating a single package. About 45 people attended, including college students, workers with less than five years of experience, and midcareer professionals who had entered the flexible packaging industry more recently.
During one of the breaks, I mentioned to an organizer how the crash course could only help those just starting out in their careers. I could certainly relate. I got my first full-time reporting job when I still was in college. As a young reporter, I didn’t understand why I needed to file my reports early in the evening if the printing press didn’t run until 4 a.m.
My mentors instilled in me a deeper understanding of how I needed to be respectful of everything that came before my reporting and afterward. In addition to the raw materials, the daily news assembly line included the work of photographers, headline writers, copy editors, editors, designers, advertisement layout specialists, advertisement salespeople, and so on. And then came the work of the professionals in the prepress room and the pressroom. Even then, the work continued, with the distribution channel taking over. That knowledge helped me to assume greater responsibilities, including running newsrooms as a top editor, as my career evolved.
The Emerging Leadership Council is an apt title for FPA’s group. By instilling in young professionals how they fit into much larger operations—both inside and outside their own organizations—FPA is ensuring future leaders are being created today.
Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE®. Barstow has had a 38-year career in journalism that includes being a reporter, writer, or editor in Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New York. He currently teaches journalism at Gettysburg College and writes for various business publications. He is a former president of the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors and a former president of the Associated Press Media Editors in Pennsylvania.