A developing picture

With a survey in, the move toward perfection continues

Article June 19, 2002
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In order to stress the point I’m going to make in this
editorial, please locate the plastic magnifying glass in the middle pages of
this book. Excuse me for one moment.

“What? The magnifying devices never made it to the
printer? Well, whose fault was that? Mine!? Oh . . . OK . . .”

I’m sorry. Due to a minor oversight you’ll have
to grab your own magnifying glass and hold it over my picture. Do you see all
those little dots in the frame? Those specs are the cells of every picture in
this magazine. In order for shots to look healthy, we need a lot of those
cells. All pictures are measured in dots per inch (dpi). The more dots, the
richer the image.

Unfortunately, the public relations world of this industry
has fallen back on cheap conveniences. People everywhere are running out to
discount superstores and purchasing $200 digital cameras. This two-bit
technology is worth . . . two bits. If all you’re doing is e-mailing
photos of little Johnny’s third birthday at 72 dpi, then a low-end
snapshot gizmo will suffice.

But on the professional level we’re not here to gush
over who’s blowing out the candles. Our readers deserve high-quality
images, which means every one must be properly sized at 300 dpi. And I have
news for all those bargain hunters who think they hold the microwave of the
21st century—a $200 digital camera fails miserably in meeting our
requirements. If you want to talk photo shop I have just one bit of wisdom:
spend an extra $1,000 on the right piece of equipment.

Our crusade for excellence has not gone unnoticed. In a
recent ROADS & BRIDGES readership survey over 90% rated the graphics and
readability of our magazine as good or excellent. Last year we decided to
powder our nose. We freshened our look to reflect the positive movement of the
staff. By all indications the change appears to be effective.

True beauty, however, comes from within and the real purpose
of this questionnaire was to gather feedback on the soul of this product. We
wanted to know what departments were read most frequently and the interest
levels of various subject matter.

On the department side, Spanning the News proved to be the
most valuable section of ROADS & BRIDGES (89% read frequently or always),
and our primary focus for the past two years has been to keep the Capitol dome
over the heads of our readers. In other words, we want the legislative issues
that drive the highway and bridge industry to be heard. Roads Report (86%),
Innovations in Technology (85.3%), Law: The Contractor’s Side (65.2%) and
. . . ahem . . . the editor’s column (58%) also ranked on the high end of
the 11 departments listed.

Gauging the interest level was perhaps the most valuable
piece of information our survey could supply. After all, we want everyone to
read every word. Road construction continued to be the top page-turner, with
71.6% of respondents saying they have “high or very high interest”
in road and highway construction/design innovations. Road construction
materials (68%), paving innovations (62.8%) and pavement maintenance, repair
and rehabilitation (62.2%) also have a strong following.

Work-zone safety (62.1%) and bridge construction/design
innovations (56.2%) were healthy indicators, but I was a bit taken aback with
the numbers concerning bridge inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation. Only
48.5% rated the category with high or very high interest. With a bulk of our
nation’s spans in decay, I figured it would be more like 65%. But this is
exactly why we reached out to a selected group. I would put our editorial wit
up against any other in this field, but a ring of psychics scares me. We are
not mind readers, but we do hope this survey reflects the proper attitude.

So now it’s our turn to respond—and in a lot of
ways we already have. Our two exclusive pavement issues—January (asphalt)
and March (concrete)—continue to be improved and expanded. We continue to
dedicate pages to work-zone safety and this year the effort has been to include
at least one feature story on bridge design, construction and rehabilitation in
every issue. Look for more positive motion in 2003.

I’ll admit the situation isn’t picture perfect.
. . but we’re awfully close.

About the author: 
Bill Wilson is Editor of Roads & Bridges. He can be contacted at bwilson@sgcmail.com.
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