David Suzuki, flying bicyclists, crystal meth, Bettie Page, Ellen Page, a music-loving dolphin, a popcorn-eating hamster, embattled school board member Doug Sparks, Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenburg, Feist. Each was the subject of a Coast cover in 2006. Together they give a picture of the cover as being eclectic, wide-ranging, unpredictable, interesting and dynamic. At least that’s the idea. We are in the news business at The Coast, and the cover is our best chance to grab your attention and say, “Hey reader, check out what’s new.”
@body 2006:The cover also says what we think is important enough to share with you. Looking back over all of 2006’s covers, I see last January’s federal election earned exactly zero coverage. However, there are covers devoted to the Best of Halifax readers’ survey, the Pop Explosion, Lindsay Willow and living without the internet for a month. (That story about going offline, by Robert Plowman, inspired one reader to follow Plowman’s lead to the extreme, with an even more ascetic approach to technology. The university student gave up computers altogether and, last I heard, is going on three months hammering out essays on an old manual typewriter.)
But during those rare times when a little navel-gazing seems appropriate—like in the Year in Review issue—the cover isn’t much help. To find out what’s new at The Coast, I turn to the least dynamic, most predictable part of the paper: the masthead.
The masthead, like a movie’s credits, is a window on what’s happening behind the scenes. And like movie credits, most people in the audience don’t give a shit. Which is fine. The masthead is designed to be unobtrusive and fade into the background. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait here. (In the print edition, it’s on page 5 beside the letters to the editor; online click “staff” under the “Coast info” heading in the left sidebar.)
What did you see? A listing of names and titles that might as well be from a phone directory? Just the fine print? My name?
I see colleagues, a bunch of people working to get The Coast to you. And comparing this issue’s masthead to the January 5, 2006, edition, I see a year of major changes for The Coast. People coming and going, positions being created. Hidden within those staid lists is an organization trying to do things better.
Stephen Kimber is a prominent example. At the beginning of 2006, he was called the Special Projects Editor in the masthead. Although it might have sounded significant, in practice the author and King’s journalism school prof had almost no involvement with the paper. But during the year, Kimber developed a craving for writing long articles, and The Coast was a natural outlet. His title was tweaked to Senior Features Writer, and his cover stories raised the level of The Coast’s journalism this year. (His profile of the school board’s Sparks is required reading for understanding the radical action the province just took against the board.)
Another highly visible example is Kate O’Connor. Last January her title was Art Director, meaning all year she’s been responsible for the cover, plus feature layouts, and every editorial photograph and illustration we publish. In today’s masthead, however, she’s listed as Art Director of the Year (2006), while directly under her is Moon Hee Nam, Art Director of the Year (2007). What gives?
The backstory is that after three successful years as Art Director—during which The Coast won awards for the look she established—O’Connor is retiring from weekly deadlines to concentrate more on her own award-winning art. Nam takes the reins from the first issue in January. It’s both the beginning and the end of an era, and if you look closely enough, you can see the torch being passed in the fine print. Issue by issue, as The Coast evolves, the masthead has the news.
How has your year evolved? Pass the news by email: firstname.lastname@example.org