Current revisited: has it improved?

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It's gained ground, but still some distance to go

Back in March, I wrote a somewhat scathing review of the first issue of Current under new owner James Baird. I pointed out that many would be watching closely, and that this was a bad time to come out with an inferior product.

The problems included lackluster layout, typographical errors and some remarkably bad writing. There have been a few issues since then, and the new publisher has had time to get things together. So has he managed to turn thing around?

Yes and no. They've covered some ground, but still have some distance to go before this becomes a publication that I would go out of my way to find.

On the plus side, the page count has increased to 24 and the Current web site is being managed nicely. It's clean and simple, with the clear intent of enabling you to download the latest issue. It also contains an archive of previous editions.

The publication looks a little better, though there are persistent problems with layout. I still don't like the boxy way in which all articles are presented. This is a personal thing, and perhaps I am off base, but the look is extremely conservative for what is supposed to be an alternative' publication. Everything is in its box, with justified type, very modular, and not looking in any way creative.

The reverse type column headers are also inane. Every feature is introduced as Current Sodoku or Current Reviews or Current Restaurants and on top of every page, just in case we've forgotten, the name appears again.

So here's some free advice. Scrap the existing format. It stinks. Just dump it. Lose all the design elements completely. Kill the typeface for body text, and go back to a serif font.

Let the advertisements anchor the page. Then look at the remainder of each page as a clean canvas. Create a new layout for every new feature, reinventing the look each time, while maintaining consistency with a few fundamentals: always the same font and point size for body text, and two or three typefaces for headlines.

Play the photos big; skew them on a diagonal, or close-cut the subject from the background and wrap the text. If the photo is bad, kill it and shoot a new one. Use white space as a design element. Experiment with colour and graphic combinations. Go a little crazy, for god's sake. If you have fun designing the publication, it will show in the final layout.

The writing is a little better, though still uneven. Some contributors, such as Karla Hayward, Dave Bidini and Mark Pike, are quite good. The restaurant reviews, presumably authored by Baird, are decent not artfully written but informative and knowledgeable. But there is a lot of uneven and downright bad writing here as well. And that seems to be the problem. What gets submitted is what gets published. Some contributors are almost there they just need an editor to smooth out the wrinkles and rough spots. Unfortunately, that isn't happening. The editor seems unable or unwilling to fix the crappy stuff.

There are still some typo's too, though not as many as the last copy I reviewed. Again, a sharp editorial eye is what's lacking.

That said, I can see what James Baird is doing here. And it's hard to fault him for it. He didn't buy Current to get rich he bought it to have a bit of fun. It's his publication and he can do with it as he pleases. But if he wants it to build a top quality publication, he should scrap the cookie-cutter layouts in favour of something more creative, while investing in a part-time editor to fix the writing.

Oh, and don't rush out looking for the latest issue based on what you see here. The K-ROCK deejay on front does not "bare it all" inside. It's a lovely guitar though.

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  • Sheena
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Oh, It's Current Sudoku! Golly, by the time I got to the Sudoku, I clean forgot what paper I was reading!

    The Telegram does a similar thing, where everything must be labelled, as if we won't figure out the story we're reading is about politics or food if they don' tell us explicitly.

    My favourite Telly label is People.

    Oh, this story has PEOPLE in it!

    Anyhow, congrats on the move, though blogger was prettier.