Guardian’s magazines push the envelope on design, content

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By Kari Cobham

Before Wendy Fitzwilliam claimed the Miss Universe 1998 title and Heather Headley sang her way onto the Broadway stage, young people in Trinidad already knew their names.

It’s because the two beauties had been featured in the Guardian’s Zone magazine, first launched in September 1994, while still rising stars.

“The idea behind it was to showcase, feature and celebrate achievements of young people,” said former editor Deborah Jean-Baptiste.

Like other Guardian supplements that were to follow, the Zone stepped out beyond the conservative confines that defined local newspapers and reached a unique demographic with its content and visuals.

Jean-Baptiste attributed the Sunday supplement’s fresh look to good photographers and adventurous writers always willing to try something different.

“I think the Zone had its impact on the young people because they were able to see themselves reflected in it,” she said.

During her time at the SG Magazine, former editor Pat Ganase saw the light-reading supplement evolve from its arts, culture and opinion content to a house and garden magazine between 1991 and 1996. Still, it maintained the trend of a new and different look for the newspaper.

“We felt that our readers could get a lot more out of graphic illustration,” Ganase said. “As an editorial device, illustration could be very powerful.”

As a result, Ganase believes readers “did detect a kind of edginess about what the newspaper was doing.”

A few years later in August 1998, women became the center of attraction in U magazine, a Sunday supplement aimed at the female demographic. U became the predecessor to WomanWise magazine, launched in August 2004 and later re-vamped to its edgier version.

“This current production is design-driven,” said Essiba Small, associate editor of WomanWise.

Small noted that the stories are shorter than what was seen in U. There are also more columnists in WomanWise for content that appeals to all women, young and old, Small said.

“It’s more firm in what we want to do; it’s for women,” Small said. “I’d like to think that we’re getting the readers that we want to get.”

And one thing they’re not afraid to deal with: sex, a traditionally taboo subject in Trinidad media, she said.

“We push the envelope where we can, but not so much it will offend,” Small said.

One of the Guardian’s more recent supplements, the Sunday Vibe, follows a totally different set of style rules—for font and layout—than the rest of the newspaper and its other publications.

The arts and entertainment magazine, first published in August 2006, “seeks to be an authority on Trinidad arts and culture” and to get people writing, said subeditor Denzil Mohammed.

He is quick to add, though, that it is not “some edgy entertainment magazine.”

“(The Sunday Vibe) is an effort to create a more literate/literary kind of readership,” Mohammed said. “No other newspaper has a supplement that emphasises art critically like we do.”

Of its notable publications, the supplement serialised the late Trinidadian folklorist and actor Edric Connor’s book, Horizons: The Life and Times of Edric Connor. The magazine has succeeded to a large extent, Mohammed said, in getting readers to send in stories, reviews and poems.

“It’s a different thing to get people to interact with a newspaper,” Mohammed said.

Today, the Trinidad Guardian has several supplements including the Business Guardian, WomanWise, Sports Arena, Sunday Vibe and a re-vamped Zone magazine.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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