The Trumpet Turns 25
February issue marks quarter century for Philadelphia Trumpet.

EDMOND—The February 2015 issue of the Philadelphia Trumpet marked the 25th anniversary of the publication. The first issue, a small newsletter produced by a handful of staff, appeared Feb. 12, 1990, two months and five days after the Philadelphia Church of God began on Dec. 7, 1989. Though it started small, the Trumpet has become a worldwide publication with a circulation of 314,408 in 130 countries. Over the years, the production of the magazine has progressed from small-scale operation into a detailed, day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour process. Today, it involves nine writers, six editors and proofreaders, five designers and artists, three production personnel and a high-quality professional web press. Here’s how it happens.

24 days to press

Tuesdays mornings in the Hall of Administration conference room, the Trumpet staff meets for its weekly writers meeting. The group includes managing editor Joel Hilliker, as well as contributing editors Dennis Leap, Robert Morley and Jeremiah Jacques. Designer Steve Hercus and contributor Brent Nagtegaal also sit in. From the United Kingdom/Europe regional office in Edstone, England, executive editor Stephen Flurry, contributing editor Brad Macdonald and contributor Richard Palmer connect via telephone. The object of the meeting: brainstorm article ideas for and the next print edition of the Trumpet.

Morley briefs the group on daily news that needs to be covered on the website, then Mr. Hilliker begins the discussion about larger trends, “things that seem significant enough that we would want to talk about in more depth than in just a article,” he says. “For me, it’s a matter of trying to take all those ideas and think about what would make a good, balanced issue.”

By the end of the meeting, an infographic and a handful of articles are assigned.

16 days out

A little more than two weeks before press time, text for the center-spread infographic draft is due to Hercus. Mr. Hilliker then takes the proposed table of contents to editor in chief Gerald Flurry, who reviews the ideas and approves the topics. “We want the best … most urgent news,” Mr. Hilliker said. But to attract those who are less driven by world news, the Trumpet also includes general-interest articles on topics about society, life and the Bible. Now is the writers’ time to go to work in earnest.

13 days out

Just less than two weeks to the deadline, publishing assistant Deepika Azariah compiles Draft 1 and sends it to proofreaders. This draft ideally includes the table of contents and page counts, the infographic, the cover and any articles that are completed early, such as submissions for the From the Editor, Living, Bible, Commentary, Principles of Living or Bible IQ departments.

9 days out

All Trumpet articles come due two Tuesdays before press time. Mr. Hilliker looks over the submissions and hands them off to copy editor Philip Nice, who edits for clarity and impact. Draft 2 is now underway.

6 days out

Nice sends each article back to its author for him to accept or reject the suggested changes. The authors then submit their revised drafts to Mr. Hilliker, the last editorial checkpoint before the full content goes into the Trumpet draft. Azariah sends the draft to editors and proofreaders on Thursday or Friday, who then submit their comments and suggested edits back to Mr. Hilliker by Monday.

4 days out

As Editorial finishes the content, Hercus and his student assistants go into overdrive. Mr. Hilliker and Hercus meet to strategize layout and designs that will draw attention to and enhance the editorial content. Student assistants Lauren Eames and Victoria Terrell research photos, and artist Gary Dorning produces illustrations, assisted by students Brooke Davis and Melissa Barreiro. Student assistant Reese Zoellner helps Hercus bring all the visual elements together into the layout drafts. Meanwhile, once Mr. Hilliker approves photos, production assistant Aubrey Mercado purchases and credits them, and Nice captions them.

Oftentimes, the data-, text- and visual-​intensive infographic is still in progress. Hercus says infographics are the most challenging part of his job: “Solid work on an infographic can usually take me three or four full days,” he says.

3 days out

At 11:45 a.m., on the Tuesday before the deadline, Mr. Hilliker leads a Trumpet review meeting. Over boxed lunches, a group of about 10 Trumpet staff members view the current state of the layout on a projector in the Hall of Administration classroom. The group suggests possible improvements for images, design, titles and quips. The same day, Mercado enters approved edits from proofreaders. She herself proofreads the almost-final product, along with long-time Editorial staff member Donna Fraser and a professional proofreading service.

1 day out

The day the Trumpet goes to press, Publishing manager Wik Heerma’s work begins in earnest. Mr. Heerma checks that each of the hundreds of elements in the Adobe InDesign document will print correctly. He also checks all images for color accuracy and resolution. “It goes through a number of checks just to make sure it will actually print,” he says, in a process known as prepress. Mr. Heerma checks to make sure the file is technically sound overall. He even checks to make sure page numbers contained in jumps and on the table of contents are still accurate. With a torrent of last-minute design and editorial work still taking place, Mr. Heerma stands as the last line of defense against errors.

Finally, Heerma formats the Trumpet document, along with its images, fonts and other information, and transmits it over the Internet to Freeport Press. Freeport evaluates the file and sends back a “soft proof,” a final check of an electronic file that represents how the actual printed document will appear. Azariah checks the issue, one page at a time, and double-checks her questions with Mr. Heerma. Sometimes mistakes are found and pages must be resubmitted.

“Obviously, we try to keep those revisions to a minimum,” Mr. Heerma said. “Every time we send a revision, there is a charge. It is a nominal fee, but any time we can catch them in the process, we save the Work money. I am still striving for zero revisions.”

+10 days

But even after the issue is off to press and the staff breathes a collective exhale and sigh of relief, the process for this issue of the Trumpet is not complete. At a subsequent Monday morning Editorial meeting, the staff takes out fresh printed copies of the issue and evaluates them in what is wryly referred to as the Trumpet “autopsy.”

“We lay it all on the table and cut it into pieces,” Mr. Heerma said. The staff discusses errors, typos, layout, effectiveness and how to improve the process going forward.

After the dissection, Azariah or Mercado add corrections to the online version of the magazine posted on

+14 days

Trumpet copies ship out from the post office located inside Freeport Press and begin to arrive in mailboxes within two weeks of press time, and an estimated 1 million people around the world read the latest prophetic news in the pages of the Philadelphia Trumpet.

Contrasting the current Trumpet production with previous processes, Mr. Hilliker said, “We have such a good team of people; everyone knows what their job is, and they do it well, versus basically a few people that do the whole thing from start to finish.”

Mr. Hilliker said the staff is continually making refinements to the process. “We are always trying to take advantage of the expertise they had in the Plain Truth … especially in the 1980s.” He said the Trumpet staff strives to preserve a lot of what made the Plain Truth work, using it as a blueprint for the Trumpet. “It’s amazing to pick up one of those magazines from [the 1980s] and see just how much you want to read the articles in there.” When working toward that level of expertise, Mr. Hilliker said, “you realize how good they were at what they did.”

“When I compare the way the Trumpet is put together now—even compared to a year or two ago—all the efforts we have made to refine the process have just taken out almost all the hand-wringing and anxiety that used to be involved in it,” Mr. Hilliker said. “I feel like God has really blessed our efforts to make it a smooth, orderly process.”