Out and about - Issue 168 - Magazine | Monocle

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Jump on a train. Take the plane. Get in the car and just drive. Journalism requires lots of skills and sensitivities but one of the most basic requirements is a powerful desire to know what’s happening around the corner, in the next town, just over the horizon. Yet, too often, modern journalism is seen as little more than the creation of “content”, the generation of bland gunk that can be used to fill up websites and social-media feeds – and all generated while sitting at a desk, just rewriting and paraphrasing what is already known and out there. But this isn’t a new problem.

When monocle started out, we knew that a key tenet would be that we would never become a place where agency copy was presented as original reporting and that we would hesitate before running a story that had appeared in any other publication. Surely it was our job to go out, witness, interview and interpret what we saw? And we also knew that we would always welcome the tangents, those moments of serendipity that can see a report head off on an unexpected path, deliver surprises and intrigue, when you hit the road.

So it’s reassuring to see two stories that top and tail this issue taking this spirit to heart. For our Affairs pages, Mary Fitzgerald headed to Senegal to unpack a story that is reshaping diplomacy, defence ties and trade in Francophone Africa. Following a series of coups, France is finding that it is no longer welcome in several nations across the Sahel whose leaders would rather be cosy with China and Russia. Senegal, for now, remains a friend of France but not an uncritical one. And it’s in the conversations that Fitzgerald has with critical politicians, artists and business leaders that you understand some of the frustrations with Emmanuel Macron’s Africa strategy. Yet the human ties, the cultural exchanges, are strong (and it’s hard to imagine Moscow or Beijing replacing Paris as the place where young Senegalese want to study, perform or start businesses).

The “tail” comes in our Expo, where our design editor, Nic Monisse, and photographer Conny Mirbach got in a car and weaved their way across Czechia. They visited the finest outposts of the nation’s rich and varied craft and architectural heritage, from bicycle factories to communist housing blocks, glass factories to bag makers. While the duo had researched the route carefully in advance, the wonders that they discovered and sheer number of creative people they met left me feeling that they could have brought back an inspiring story if they had just hit the road and allowed luck to guide them. Monisse had his work cut out this month – he might even have sailed past a few supposedly final deadlines – as this issue is home to our autumn design special. So one day he was in the studio as we shot our “furniture top 20”; the next heading to Genoa to meet one of architecture’s greats, Renzo Piano (this issue also contains interviews with Shigeru Ban and Jeanne Gang). We’ll forgive him the occasional tardiness.

We are sending this issue to the printers as London slowly nudges into autumn. From here until Christmas, it feels like something of an editorial toboggan run. Perhaps we should put on our Moncler jackets – you can discover the secrets of that brand’s success in our fashion editor Natalie Theodosi’s interview with owner Remo Ruffini.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be also dispatching three specials: The Entrepreneurs, The Forecast and The Escapist. Yes, our travel magazine is finally making its much-requested return. And, of course, the simplest way to ensure that none of these, or anything else, sneaks past you is to subscribe – all you need to do is head over to monocle.com/subscribe and we will have you aboard in no time.

And meanwhile, if you decide that you want to drop me a note or forward a suggestion (hopefully a pleasant one), you can find me, as always, at at@monocle.com. Have a great month. 

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