Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Magazine Me XVIII
Every year, the graduate magazine publishing project at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism produces a prototype magazine. Graduate students create the premiere issue of a test magazine -- some of which end up launching as proper newsstand mags, a la Book. And some are destined to remain relegated to the dustbin of class project history.

A class of almost 20 master's students developed the prototype issue of Renew: City-Inspired Home Improvement, which is aimed at people actively interested in refurbishing their living spaces. Opening with an overly open-ended table of contents, the issue comprises pieces addressing how your pet smells, designing a home office, alternatives to wood flooring and wallpaper, rooftop gardening, and redoing a kitchen.

The editor's letter didn't really catch my attention, and the magazine is chock-a-block with one-page features, which lends a negatively short-lived energy to the book. While I appreciate the grad students' balance of personal considerations and design how-to, as well as the features "Kitchens at Every Price" and "Life As a House," I'm not sure there's a market for another magazine like this. Combining elements of ReadyMade, Wallpaper, and Metropolis, not to mention the sundry other shelter rags, Renew is positioned to enter an already-crowded niche. There's a reason Gruner & Jahr shuttered HomeStyle earlier this year. Renew just doesn't carry enough swagger or passion to outshine other magazines already on the shelves.

Still, the magazine publishing project is one of the most-impressive aspects of NU's journalism program, and I'm always jazzed to see what those crazy college kids came up with this time. Kudos to all involved.

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