09/09/07 23:41 Filed in: Media
Anthony Sabga III, Bunji Garlin, Danielle Ashby, moi and Cordia Gibbs on a visit by the raggasoca maestro to the Wire in January 2002. Photo by Andrea De Silva.
In other photos below, beauty queens visit the paper and look at photos with Keith Matthews and yours truly explains the digital workflow to Ashton Forde and Fitzgerald Hinds.
It's quite possible that I may be the only person who remembers the significance of 9/10/2001 any more.
That was the day that the Trinidad Publishing Company launched The Wire; a tabloid publication designed to win readership from Newsday and the Express newspapers.
Weary of interminable meetings about the new publication in which people made outrageous and irreconcilable suggestions, I wrote a four page outline for the publication that earned me a meeting with Managing Director Grenfell Kissoon and (then) Chairman of the Board, Martin Daly.
My four pages won me a mandate to work on the launch of the publication, but there would be many people who would work on the project, many inputs from smart colleagues and many changes in the concept along the way.
Andy Johnson, then the editor of the Guardian, was appointed editor of The Wire and I got to work trying to hire photographers, buying chairs, designing the desks (they are still in use at the Guardian today) and figuring out how to build toilets backed by a picture window.
It was, to be honest, one of the most remarkable experiences I've ever had, but there was much more to come.
The paper launched on the morning of September 10, 2001, with the Carib Girls handing out copies of the paper on Independence Square, music and drumming.
The very next day, we got our headlines for the week. It seems a cut and dried way to see the terror attacks on the US, but on that Tuesday morning, we all stared at the television as the clips of the crashes were replayed again and again, trying to figure out just what was happening.
The Ungers, an English couple hired by TPC to work on the Guardian saw great opportunities at the Wire. Their two months on the paper left me grinding my teeth at night, overrode the authority of Andy and, I will freely admit, built a bulletproof sub-editing desk that would be the heart of the Wire's performance on deadlines throughout its short life.
Just a bit less than a year and a half later, it was all over. The paper hadn't ever turned a profit, despite steady circulation of roughly 15,000 copies per day. The Guardian was switching to 'broadloid' format, slicing an inch and a half off its width and height and was launching a dramatic redesign. Both papers were now looking for the same market, and it just made sense to consolidate the staff into one, stronger publication.
I spent two weeks working with Guardian Editor Dominic Kalipersad on making the best use of the staff, all of whom were offered an opportunity to continue their employment with the Guardian.
Then I bounced around a bit and pitched the idea of relocating the Guardian staff to the now abandoned Wire newsroom space to undertake a massive, two-month long redesign of the fractured Guardian newsroom space.
When I got done with that, working closely with Finance guru Peter Gomez as I had on the Wire establishment, I didn't have a good reason to come to work anymore.
I had been given an opportunity to work on the startup, running (as Operations Manager) and closure of a mass circulation newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. I'd lanced the longest aching boil I had with the Guardian's editorial department, a newsroom laid out in a vast horseshoe that dispersed the staff along a long corridor and destroyed any potential for a working dynamic.
I also got a chance to get some sleep after working lunatic days and nights.
If I have any regrets today, six years later, on another Monday that falls on the tenth of September, it is that the excitement, productivity and heady vibe that the paper brewed daily didn't live on after the last issue of the paper.
Our readership wasn't pulled from the readership of the big three; it came from a new, distinctly younger pool of readers.
The Express still owes me one for The Wire. At the very next media poll, the Express pulled ahead of Newsday for the first time in years, a lead it still holds. I remain convinced to this day that the new readers of The Wire tipped the Express into pole position.
There are still some ex-Wire employees at the Guardian and several more working at other media houses, but I'm sure they will all remember the adrenaline rush that gripped the paper every day. The shouting, the passion, the chaos that fuelled the production of every issue and drove everyone to do some of their best work.
Our photodesk was all-digital from the start and became a proof of concept for local media that it was possible to run a paper, a picture paper, with an all-digital workflow and asset management. I learned to write editorial leaders at the Wire, taking up the challenge after Andy left us and began writing four a week (out of five publications) an instalment of BitDepth and a movie review for Cable Guys, which I wrote with Keifel Agostini. By the time the paper closed I had written more than two hundred editorials. The experience proved valuable, as I continue to write the Monday leader for the Guardian to this day.
I've still got my official Wire polo jersey hanging in my clothes cupboard, and I suspect that I'll put it on today, but I don't think any young turks will be hailing me out as "Wire Man."
But in my heart, there is still a warm place for the fevered effort that we put into making that paper work and for the people who believed in it.
So here's a big shout out to some of the folks who made that time so special; Andy Johnson, Andrea De Silva, Kevan Gibbs, Keifel, N'Delamiko Lord, Karla Ramoo, Cordia Gibbs, Danielle Ashby, Irving Ward, Irene Medina, Sandra Chouthi, Bernadette Millien, Sean Simon, Sasha Mohammed, Bonnie Khan, Naz Yacoob and yeah, Jaye-Q. A very special thank you to my sweetie Donna for going with a fierce flow.