They call themselves the four M's: Maureen Harris, Marietta (Marie) Contes, Margaretta (Peggy) Kiely and Meda Jane Alberse. You won't see their bylines on a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED story, but without their dedicated help some of our stories might not get written.
The four M's comprise our administrative staff, technically known as the editorial business office. "Don't call us accounting," warns chief administrator Maureen Harris, but the truth is they handle a lot of accounts, expense and otherwise, and they keep a close and efficient eye on the cash flow. Maureen is particularly busy now—she is every autumn—anticipating expenses for the next year as she helps prepare our 1975 budget. Maureen joined Time Inc. in 1950 and was secretary to our first managing editor, Sidney L. James, when SPORTS ILLUSTRATED began publishing in 1954. Her duties soon expanded to include administration, and in time that became her chief concern. Now she supervises 59 accounts, including those that cover staff salaries, contracts with free-lance writers and purchases of everything from office equipment to works of art.
Her chief assistant, Marie Contes, came to us in 1965 after 14 years "upstairs" in Time Inc.'s accounting department. There she used to process, among other things, the expense accounts of the late Henry Luce. "He was a modest spender," she recalls. Now Marie handles the accounts of our staff members, whose expenditures can be as major as travel, hotel and dining costs at an Olympic Games or as modest as cab fare from our office to Madison Square Garden. Untangling complexities of foreign exchange ("How much is 67 zlotys in dollars?") is her biggest headache, along with staffers who don't get reports in on time, who lose receipts or who "are by temperament always in a financial dither."
Peggy Kiely worked on LIFE before joining our photography department in 1963. Two years ago she switched to overseeing picture purchases, fees and other costs relating to nonstaff photographers, who supply a significant proportion of our photo coverage. Photographers are by reputation an aggressive, carefree breed but, says Peggy, "They all need to be babied, scolded and given gold stars when they get bills and receipts in on time."
Meda Jane Alberse calls herself the junior M, since her career with Time Inc. goes back a mere eight years. Meda is the member of the department our staff members go to first, because she disburses the cash, some of it petty, some of it not so petty. A good many of the disbursements are routine, but on occasion she has advanced impressive sums for such things as the quick purchase of vitally needed photo equipment or to pay for a damaged balloon that a writer guided to a landing in a tree.
It's only money, as they say, but we could not get the magazine edited without it. Or without our four M's.