Friday, September 05, 2003

Dead End Street

I bought the National Post on Tuesday for National Post Business Magazine (I normally purchase Dizzy Izzy product only once per week) and discovered that Avenue has returned to the Arts&Life section. For those who never experienced the joy that was the original Avenue, it was a double-page spread that explored a particular idea or new book or hot trend or weird discovery, all in full colour, heavy on the graphics or photos and light on text. It was big, bright, gorgeous and expensive, from what I understand. FYI: Ellen Vanstone discussed the section at length in her essay "Post Traumatic Stress," which can be found in Word Carving, an anthology of literary journalism from Banff Centre Press that was recently published. (The article was also published two years ago in Toronto Life, I believe.)

Anyway, Avenue was one of many casualties when the Aspers axed everything and everybody interesting from the newspaper back in September of 2001. So I was somewhat surprised to see it return two years later. After gutting their superior-to-the-Globe Arts&Life coverage, the Post quickly discovered people disengaged their subscriptions with harrowing speed, given that many people had been holding their nose and closing their eyes to the right-wing-wacko news section, instead skipping ahead to the Post’s amazing and youthful look at pop culture and artistic happenings. Take that away and what was the point of continuing to read the Post?

You might expect me to be overjoyed at the return of Avenue, but it’s being done on the cheap, which in my estimation is worse than not having it at all. (And I’ll avoid the creative dearth this kind of decision speaks of, not to mention the sloth-like speed of its return.) It’s now one page, not two. Bad idea.

Somewhat appropriately, the debut Avenue the Second shows how to make a perfect paper airplane, encouraging readers (returning students, to be precise) to fold the newsprint patterns and chuck them around the classroom. This somewhat neat idea (the planes bear a modified version of the current marketing slogan, reading: "Your Plane. Your Post") does have unfortunate optics, however. Converting hallowed newsprint into a flying projectile has the unintended consequence of making one think the pulp they were holding isn’t actually meant to be read anymore, but rather, converted into origami. I for one am waiting for the bird cage liner Avenue.