Monday, August 25, 2003

Magazine Me XLIII

As part of the Medill School of Journalism's Magazine Publishing Project, graduate students at Northwestern University collaborate to create a prototype of a new magazine title. I recently read the two most recent prototypes: Fall 2002's Bite and Spring 2003's Invite.

Bite establishes its purpose and attitude on the front cover. With an edgy name and a solid cover image, Bite opens with energetic cover language. The table of contents continues the enthusiasm, sharing the insides of this effervescent magazine for foodies. The prototype features shorts on vegetables (the humble radish), soda pop (with a lefty leaning), and basics (rice and beans), along with recipes, drink recommendations, and regional hit picks. But it's the deeper features -- dinner party reports, profiles of catalytic cooks, pieces on important ingredients (goat cheese), retrospective trend reports (the raw food movement) -- that really please the palate. Add to that a tippler's timeline, a compilation of comfort food, and international immersion, as well as a kitchen gadget guide, interior design developments, cookbook looks, and hoi polloi how to's, and you end up with an engaging and encouraging read. Given ReadyMade and extreme golf magazines, it's high time we get an everyman's guide to eating. If Martha Stewart's Everyday Food isn't it, maybe this is.

Invite is another shelter and nesting read. Less radical in its approach than Bite, it still focuses on food and drink -- and establishing one's image through entertaining. Despite its subtler tone, Invite's table of contents is decidedly less staid, and the magazine motivates with a much more fun approach to layout. The mag leads with products, entertainment elements, fete faux pas (a key item), ingredient introductions (watermelon), an entertaining calendar of recommended events and holidays, a social grace Q&A, and recipes. The feature well comprises decorating decisions, first-person narratives, holiday-oriented how to's, social strategies (the ever-beguiling guest list), party promotion profiles, and other offerings. Invite emphasizes the how as well as the to (in terms of purpose). But all in all, this prototype issue falls far from Bite's belligerence and -- while timely in terms of 911, the downturn, and all -- doesn't quite connect with my nesting instincts.

We need an edgy foodie magazine to accompany such lifestyle lit as Bark and ReadyMade. I think Bite's got potential.

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