While the economic decline has been forcing local media companies to downsize and cut costs, one off-beat magazine has been bravely weathering the financial storm and even expanding. Media & Editorial Projects Ltd (Mep), producers of Caribbean Beat, the inflight magazine of Caribbean Airlines, are proudly celebrating their 100th issue and are planning to move into bookstores, as well. "Over the years, people have been asking for past issues. They thought highly of the articles and photos. "The magazine was seen as more than an in-flight magazine, and we decided to treat it as one and make it available to the general reader," editor Judy Raymond said. Caribbean Beat is available at selected local bookstores and two places in Toronto and New York.
"We're starting small and hoping to grow," she said at Mep's Prospect Avenue, Maraval, office last week. In the meantime, Mep is celebrating.
"We're trying to celebrate reaching 100. Caribbean Beat is one of the few magazines in the English-speaking Caribbean ever to be able to celebrate such an occasion," Raymond said. "So many magazines were produced in T&T and around the region and didn't last." From being published quarterly, there are now six editions of Caribbean Beat a year. In celebration of the 100th issue, the November/December edition of the magazine is a collector's edition and is free to Caribbean Airlines passengers.
"We have also decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Notting Hill Carnival in London, and the 60th anniversary of the Test match at Lord's that the West Indies won. That was the beginning of calypso cricket," Raymond said. The magazine shows a photograph of a youthful Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts), guitar in hand, leading a group of West Indies fans onto the pitch after their team beat England. This issue is an exciting read, with intriguing stories like, The Man With the Butterfly Tattoo, in which the former editor, Nicholas Laughlin, writes about his visit to the former prison colony of Devil's Island, in search of the truth behind Henri Charriere's famous half-fiction, Papillon.
So why has this "regional," full-colour, glossy magazine, chock-full of well-written articles and good photographs on Caribbean culture, history, travel, personalities and the environment, remained afloat? "Like other publications, we are supported by advertising," Raymond said. Advertisers have not pulled out from Caribbean Beat. A quick browse through of the latest issue shows ads on nearly every page. Partnering with Caribbean Airlines has brought in some advantages, too. "The magazine is produced in the United States, and Caribbean Airlines flies it in.
This has decreased some costs," Raymond said. "We also use freelance writers from around the region. We don't have to deal with staff cuts, overheads." That aside, Raymond spoke about the high-quality content of Caribbean Beat. The original idea was to provide information to tourists coming to the region, but it has grown into a magazine for visitors as well as the general reader, she explained. "We still offer what we hope is a winning mix. We hold ourselves to the same high standards in writing, photography and illustrations.
"And we still try to feature the best of the Caribbean, and to roam off the beaten track as often as we can, to highlight people, places, events and ideas that aren't already well known, but deserve more attention. Beat covers things people are doing in the region and the (Caribbean) diaspora. "We also try to include stories that would be of interest to business travellers." The magazine's articles are also reference material, Raymond noted. "Some people have the complete set of Caribbean Beat, going back to 1992, when it was first published." Mep also produces Discover, a tourist's guide, and Energy Caribbean.