Editor in chief Tyler Brûlé looks back over his career in television, print and radio as we celebrate six years of Monocle and new developments for Monocle 24.
Once upon a time, in front of a very large Panasonic TV with a big chrome dial, orange backlit numbers and a faux-mahogany frame, I used to dream about being one of those men who delivered the news report in a sweat-stained safari jacket with datelines from Jakarta, Beirut, Buenos Aires and Jerusalem. In the living room at our home just outside Montréal I got up early to watch the US morning shows (with foreign coverage from all corners of the world), caught the international portion of the bulletin on our local CTV affiliate cfcf and then I’d swap over to see the likes of Frank Reynolds and Walter Cronkite round up the day from Washington and New York. Before bedtime there was the main bulletin on CBC at 22.00 with the wonderfully named Knowlton Nash, and at 23.00 CTV’s flagship programme crashed onto screen with its cymbals and urgent theme tune and anchors Lloyd Robertson and Harvey Kirk faded up into view.
Compared to the copy of the Montréal Gazette folded on the coffee table or the copies of the Canadian newsweekly Maclean’s and Time scattered around the house, TV news was something I wanted to be part of – it was epic, fast moving and impactful, and I felt informed. At school I used to pull out graph paper, a mechanical pencil and a ruler to design my own news sets. Would the anchor desk be a half-moon shape or long rectangle? Should the palette be neutral tones or dark woods? Should the newsroom be visible in the background and if so, should all the telex machines and rows of typewriters be in vision for the viewer?
At about the same time that I was going through my “When I grow up I want to read the news” phase, I started doing odd jobs (mowing lawns and working at our local yacht club) and soon found myself in possession of my very own disposable income. But what to spend it on? As I’d outgrown strategising and arranging massive battle campaigns on my bedroom floor with hundreds of soldiers, I soon found I was spending most of my money on magazines that took me far from Montréal and Canada’s borders. At a packed newsstand in the heart of the city I could spend hours deciding what to spend my $30 on and hoping that if I came up slightly short my mum would chip in so I could get two copies of Navy International and a phone book-size edition of the very exotic Per Lui. While other friends were starting to buy cartridges to slot into video-game consoles or amassing enormous record collections, I had a library bursting with magazines from the UK, France, Italy and Germany.
Some years later I went on to pursue my career in TV news and had the good luck to catch the very end of what many might regard as the golden age of TV news: when a group of men and women around the world were voices of god at 18.00, 21.00 and 22.00 most nights of the week and just before round-the-clock news channels became the norm. It took a while but print ended up getting the better of me by 1992 and though I continued to dip in and out of television, it was hard to beat the lingering impact of assembling a story on the page and the relative simplicity of it all – with one exception. Radio.
While I didn’t get many opportunities to work in radio early on, some assignments with the BBC World Service and Radio 4 gave me enough of a taste to know it was a medium that felt more closely aligned to print than TV. It was the straightforward approach to storytelling, along with the ability to tie in a good soundtrack, that prompted me to pull out the mechanical pencil and graph paper again two years ago and start planning the launch of our radio service Monocle 24.
As this issue marks our sixth anniversary on newsstand, we’ve used the opportunity to launch a season of new programming and expanded coverage. By the time this issue hits kiosks and letterboxes we should be signing on air with a sharper sound, a refined playlist and a better offer for listeners across Asia. There’s also a good chance that work will have started on a new broadcast facility in Tokyo to balance out the day with more bulletins and a new line-up of presenters and newsreaders from our favourite broadcasters, record labels and clubs in Japan. We’ll have more on our plans for our expanded Tokyo operation in the coming weeks and months; if you think you might have what it takes on either the radio or retail side then do send along your CV to my colleagues listed below.
As this 61st issue makes its way from our desks to the repro house to our printer to our logistics partners and out into the distribution network of our wholesalers and retailers, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our commercial and creative partners for their support and our readers for helping us thrive and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for six exceptional years. Cards, cakes and presents are all welcome at Midori House or any of our outposts. You can also drop notes to me at email@example.com and my assistants Tommy Seres and Isabel Käser at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Up next: our new spring Style Survey for April. More soon.
For more from our editor in chief, read his column in the ‘FT Weekend’.