Observation | Monocle

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A journalist recently asked me to select the five highlights of editing monocle over the past five years. “Only five?” I asked. While we munched on ANZAC biscuits that our lovely PR Emily had made for our floor, I mentally wandered back up to Boston Place and peered through the window of our old hq – circa February 2007.

Back then it was a wholly different affair as there were fewer than 10 of us responsible for commissioning, writing, editing and art directing the whole project. Poppy Shibamoto had only recently graduated from reception to the post of photo assistant (she’s now our photo director) and our editor Andrew Tuck had just finished his moonlight shifts that saw him going about his editorial tasks at The Independent by day and then pitching up at our offices after 18.00 to keep the magazine on track. In a broom closet along from Andrew’s desk we’d created a booth for doing voice-overs (it later became a dressing room for costume changes and for various editors to don elaborate garments from the fashion cupboard) and the publishing team sat on the floor above sharing four desks.

When the first issue pulled up on a Saturday afternoon in early February we gathered around our conference table to gently open the boxes and we silently flipped through issue one and stroked it as if it was a proper little newborn. On the cover was a pilot from the Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force framed by a simple black border. It looked a little more serious than it had done on screen but it had the desired impact – it felt different from anything any of us had done before and most importantly it felt fresh for the newsstand.

While the journalist munched on another ANZAC biscuit I drifted back into the room and tried to return to her question. I decided that it was too hard to pinpoint just five highlights from the past five years and made a half-hearted attempt to come up with a list while meanwhile changing the subject and diverting her attention to other things. As we talked about the state of media (paywalls, rudderless management teams and efficiencies rather than innovation), I started to think about a more formal list of highlights. What follows (in no specific order) is my list of the best of the past five years.

  1. Having my mom, grandmother and Mats at my side when we broke into the first box of issue ones.

  2. Being able to finally work alongside my dear friend Andrew Tuck – it only took us 15 years!

  3. Managing to get to launch with the original team all at the helm – Richard Spencer Powell, Rose Percy, Pamela Mullinger, Saul Taylor, Jackie Deacon and Robert Bound.

  4. Seeing Hidetoshi Nakata on the masthead as our editor-at-large.

  5. Meeting Verbal from M-flo at our launch in Tokyo.

  6. Seeing issue one on display at Tsutaya in Tokyo.

  7. Having Koop play for us at our launch party at Claridge’s.

  8. Managing to get to launch stage thanks to COO Sabine Vandenbroucke and managing director Robyn Holt.

  9. Being lucky to have a smart, interested group of investors who always understand the mission of this project.

  10. Watching our head of broadcast Gillian Dobias’s films steadily climb up the rankings on iTunes.

  11. Working the shop floor on opening Saturday at our London shop.

  12. Travelling to Hokkaido and touring Japan’s version of Air Force One with my colleague Fiona Wilson.

  13. Receiving a letter of congratulations from the editor of der Spiegel.

  14. Seeing my colleague Liv Lewitschnik graduate from the post of researcher to Asia editor and running our bureau in Hong Kong.

  15. Launching the Monocle Weekly with my colleague Alexander Mills – who I’m hoping will return once he gets the “university phase” out of his system.

  16. Telling my colleagues we were going to launch a newspaper in the form of Monocle Mediterraneo.

  17. Re-discovering Beirut with our correspondent Carole Corm and a clutch of hearty colleagues.

  18. Finding my singing voice again with the help of Noriko Okubo and Robert Bound.

  19. Enjoying a proper boy’s trip to Rio with Anders, Alex, Rob and Andrew.

  20. Hitting our business plan and taking MONOCLE into solid profit.

  21. Finding out that a building I had long admired was coming on the market and we would be able to escape Boston Place.

  22. Hearing the theme music written by the Quiet Nights Orchestra for Monocle 24 for the first time.

  23. Cracking open the doors on the freshly upholstered, just painted studios at Midori House.

  24. Co-anchoring with Christine Ockrent during our launch.

  25. Seeing and hearing our chief sub editor Louise Banbury read her first news bulletin.

To everyone who has contributed to and supported this little adventure in modern media, my sincerest thanks. As ever, you’ll find me at tb@monocle.com

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