Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Past editors speak

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Carmen Patterson
Phyllis Thomas
Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson
Barbara Ellington
Grace Cameron
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Cathy Risden, Lifestyle Writer

The Flair of today has been built on the shoulders of some amazing women who have put their own personal stamp on the publication you now receive in your Monday Gleaner. Today, we pay homage to the editors who have gone before as we say happy birthday, Flair!

Carmen Patterson - first editor-on-staff in 1986

1. What was the best part of that era - something that stood out for you the most?

It was a very exciting time for The Gleaner, as well as for me and my team. I was appointed the first full-time editor of the Flair, which was conceptualised by communications consultant Jean Lowrie-Chin. On my appointment, I sought to build on the popularity of the publication and to make the magazine a highly anticipated publication that was glamorous with wholesome content, to attract increasing numbers of female readers. So we worked hard to make each weekly publication unpredictable, with features that were unexpected, complimented by design.

During that time, we had to work manually with the paste-up artistes to create a different look for each page, which sometimes took us into the wee hours of the morning. But we set a trend for design innovation, which was beyond the tools we had at the time. I was satisfied that we built a strong foundation and loyal readers on which other Flair editors could build.

2. What was your motivation?

My motivation was to produce a publication that was unique, stylish, trendy, edgy, and which appealed to women of all ages. In fact, I am humbled to say that, during my tenure, the magazine was so popular that women in offices jostled to be the first to get their hands on the Flair to see what we had come up with that week.

3. Which one of your team members stood out, and why?

Over the years, each team member played a vital part in the growth and development of the magazine and each had his or her individual strengths. However, there was one male staff member who was so excited about the weekly product that he would stay behind with me on production nights just to be able to see the final product before it reached the public.

5. What did you take from that experience?

I had always been excited about new challenges and taking on assignments that most persons shied away from. So, when I was asked to take over the Small Publications and Special Features desk, I was excited to work on other publications that needed enhancement. Further appointments came in close succession thereafter, where I was senior editor in charge of least five other sections of the Gleaner's editorial department before I left 13 years ago. With each move came new staff and varied responsibilities, which kept me excited and engaged.

6. What do you miss most about being the editor of the 'Flair Magazine'?

As a journalist, I miss not being able to contribute to the daily output of the news in general, but as it pertains to Flair, I am confident that each editor or coordinator appointed will continue to bring a new feel and look to the publication in keeping with that era, as has been the case for the past 30 years. I congratulate each editor and coordinator who has contributed to the longevity of this magazine and wish the publication long life.

Yvonne Grinam-Nicholson - 1992-1993

1. What was the best part of that era - something that stood out for you the most?

The best part of that era was women's fashion

2. Which one of your team members stood out to you, and why?

Phyllis Thomas stood out as she provided me with much guidance and assistance. She would write a very insightful editorial piece that appeared on page two of the magazine. It would set the tone for the content.

3. What did you take from that experience?

I learnt how to work with a team of writers and how to withstand pressures from 'self-promoters' who wanted their products featured in the paper. An excellent take-away for me was working against strict deadlines.

4. What do you miss most about being the editor of the 'Flair Magazine'?

I miss covering some of the events and meeting the talented Jamaicans across the length and breadth of the island.

Phyllis Thomas - early '90s

1.What was the best part of that era - something that stood out to you the most?

It was an era of change, growth and audacity - daring to succeed in the face of ugly obstacles and with attitude, too. The Flair had no competition then - like Usain Bolt running against the clock, Flair's push was itself, in a market with an increasing appetite for the content we were providing.

2.What was your motivation?

People always motivate me - knowing that I am able to make a difference in their lives.

3. Which one of your team members stood out, and why?

That is a difficult question since I was the head cook and bottle washer when I produced the Flair, meaning, I was not just the editor, but the reporter as well, writing almost every story in the magazine.

4. What did you take from that experience?

I took from the experience satisfaction, knowing that I was able to firmly establish an identity for the Flair, which remains today and which other publishers have tried to clone. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it says that we are successful trendsetters. I believe that, in all I do, I must leave my footprint on whatever path I travel. It's up to my successor to better that.

5. What do you miss most about being the editor of the 'Flair Magazine'?

I really don't miss being editor of the Flair. I am one of those journalists who believe that, when the news is breaking, I must be at the centre of bringing it to the public.

Grace Cameron - November 2000-2005

Although Grace Cameron has migrated to Canada, her legacy still lives on. In our 21st anniversary issue, she noted that doing Flair was a wonderful experience.

"Flair is a wonderful vehicle for women, made for women, by women about women." She notes that the only low point of Flair would be the editorial space, to look at serious issues at least once a month.

Barbara Ellington - 2005-2012

1. What was the best part of your tenure? Something that stood out for you the most?

The best part was the team and the weekly collaboration that led to many amazing projects and features. It was great to lead a team that was so focused, eager to learn, and bursting with great ideas. I did not have to worry about continuity when I was away on overseas assignments or vacation, because things ran seamlessly.

Nashauna Drummond is now the editor, but she, as well as Sacha Walters Gregory, and Daviot Kelly, showed early signs of their ability to manage the desk. Keisha Shakespeare, Yahneek Sterling, Tessi Johnson and Latoya Grindley also showed excellent creative ability and have all gone on to excel in their various jobs since leaving The Gleaner. There were some excellent overseas interns, too.

There were many 'best things' about my time with Flair, such as witnessing the birth of a baby in a delivery room, but the Flirtatious party we threw to celebrate our 25th anniversary stands out. The team conceptualised it and I had faith in their ability to do a great job. It was executed in less than six weeks and we donated more than $550,000 from the proceeds to Mary's Child, our charity of choice.

2. What was your main motivation?

My main motivation was beating the competition week after week.

3. Which team member stood out the most?

The team member who stood out the most? Are you serious? They are all standouts; it seems only natural to pinpoint Nashauna Drummond, because she now runs the show. She is no-nonsense and quietly efficient; but every member was so versatile and willing to learn, it's hard to separate them. I was blessed to have them behind me.

4. What did you take from that experience?

From very early into my stint, I learnt to treat all team members with equal respect and to trust them to exercise their creative abilities. I took the attitude that: "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," from my days in the classroom. It served me well. There was no need to be the heavy-handed, overbearing 'boss woman', and it's always good to give others an opportunity to grow, because many people in my life have given me that.

5. What do you miss most about being the editor of the 'Flair Magazine'?

I miss the team, of course, but this is not a fair question to ask me because, as a rule, I do not allow myself the luxury of missing things or situations. I can leave anything and anyone behind with gratitude for having shared the experience. I embrace each new opportunity/challenge in this dynamic newsroom to start new things, learn new processes and grow. After all, The Gleaner is 180 years old and I have not even been here for 20!

cathy.risden@gleanerjm.com