Happy birthday to us: The best moments from four years of Delayed Gratification
We got a bit nostalgic when issue #16 of Delayed Gratification arrived at the office, as it marked the end of our fourth year in print. To celebrate four years of Slow Journalism, the team looked back on some of their favourite moments in making the mag.
Rob Orchard, co-editor
My favourite DG moment came at 8.50am on the morning of 9th February, 2011. The first issue had been out for six weeks and things had gone very quiet. After an initial rush of friends and family signing up, subscriptions had gone off the boil and I was really worried that we might not make it to issue two. And then Marcus went on the Today programme on Radio Four.
He was only on for ten minutes, speaking about the Slow Journalism concept with a slightly sceptical Sarah Montague, but in those ten minutes alone we sold ten new subscriptions. They poured in throughout that day – every time I refreshed my inbox there were more, from all over the country. The new readers we got that day paid for issues two and three and gave us confidence that the magazine had a future. And every 9th February since then we’ve had a nice boost from the subscribers who have stayed with us. Despite taking place in the depths of winter, it’s one of my favourite days of the year.
Marcus Webb, co-editor
Please forgive the nostalgia – then again looking back is what we do – but my highlight goes back to before the first issue was printed. It was the moment Shepard Fairey agreed to let us use his art on the cover. I’ve always been a fan of his work and approached him thinking we’d get a polite ‘no’ if he replied at all. Thankfully, he liked the concept of Slow Journalism and agreed to let us have his picture ‘Freedom Of The Press’ for the cover (and waived his fee, god bless him).
In that instant the magazine that had existed only in our minds became a reality – we had a cover. Now all we had to do was work out how to fill the other 119 pages of the first issue… and the 1,968 and counting that have followed.
Christian Tate, art director
My favourite thing about the last four years of working on Delayed Gratification is that the best issue of the magazine is always the next one, the one that’s still in our heads. It’s amazing that everyone who works on DG is so passionate about making the best magazine we can, and we’re constantly thinking about how we can make it better.
We never make things easy for ourselves if there’s a way to improve on what’s gone before, there’s no complacency about putting together the magazine and we’re always looking what works (and what doesn’t), what we do well and how we can build on the good stuff. It’s great that after four years the magazine is as much of a labour of love as it always has been, and that the next issue is always going to be the best one yet.
Matthew Lee, associate editor
When historians of the future pinpoint the precise start of the Slow Journalism movement, they will doubtless be drawn to 1st October 2010, the first day covered by the first issue of Delayed Gratification. On that day they will find our first ever article, a moderately interesting 250-word Q&A with a man who claimed to be the reincarnation of King Arthur.
We had lots of ideas to get out of our system in that first issue and my interview with King Arthur Pendragon on druidry’s new status as a legal religion perhaps wasn’t one of our finest. But I have fond memories of crackly phone conversations (he lives in a tent at Stonehenge) in which I tried to convince a man who hadn’t existed for 15 centuries that Delayed Gratification honestly would exist some time in the new year.
King Arthur Pendragon, Titular Head of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, has been asking me to join his network on Linked In ever since. To celebrate our fourth birthday, many hundreds of Slow Journalism articles later, I might just accept his invitation.
Jeremy Lawrence, associate editor
As an associate editor based several thousand miles away from London, each issue of Delayed Gratification conjures an intense mixture of pride and also a pang of jealousy that I am not able to physically be present when the magazine is finalised and the magic happens. It’s strange to be at once so intimate and yet so removed from the process.
The subscribers’ event at the V&A a few months back provoked curious thoughts: Who are our subscribers in the UK? Do they like what we do? Do they love it as much as we do? What will they be like? Will they turn up? And if they do, will it just be for the free drinks?
Well, the room filled up and the excitement was palpable. Our subscribers – who by the way were very nice, well-adjusted folks – wanted to hear what we had to say. They wanted to participate. They even laughed at the jokes. And afterwards they all stuck around for that drink and told us how much they loved Delayed Gratification, which in some cases was inspiring them to follow their own publishing dreams.
It was a lovely experience and a reminder that the last four years have been worth the hard work. Thanks to all our readers. I’m glad they’re as excited as me when the issue comes through the post. Cheers!
James Montague, associate editor
Damn. Has it been four years already? There are just so many covers, infographics and stories to consider. Seeing the first cover by Shepard Fairey, holding the magazine, smelling it for the first time; that was pretty special. Almost every single Evil Stickman’s guide to doing very bad things should be a book itself. But the highlight for me in terms of something I worked on directly was a slow feature I wrote in 2012 about a long forgotten terrorist movement from Wales.
In the 1960s there was a terrorist group called MAC, determined to fight for Welsh independence and free it from the yoke of English oppression. There wasn’t much information out there, but in the 1960s this was a huge deal, a time before the terror of IRA bombs on the mainland had wormed its way into the public consciousness.
The leader was John Barnard Jenkins, a commissioned officer in the British army who was radicalised by a series of what he saw as anti-Welsh policies, especially the flooding of valleys and villages to make reservoirs to provide water to English cities. Within a few years his organisation was bombing tax offices and other sites connected to the British state until 1969 when the mother of all targets presented itself: Prince Charles’s investiture.
Jenkins managed to bomb the event, whilst stationed in uniform in nearby. But two of his associates died when a bomb they were setting blew up. He was caught the next year and jailed until the 1980s. I went to meet him in a pub in Wrexham. He’s in his 80s now but sharp and still passionate. It was the most fascinating three hours of my life, and I wouldn’t have had it without DG.
It was the perfect definition of a slow journalism story. Looking back at a long forgotten event, piecing together the path to radicalism by tracking down old books and prison letters. Even finding him was a job in itself. But the relevance to today, about terrorism and identity in the United Kingdom was clear. It was a story I think only Delayed Gratification could have had the patience to publish.
Loes Witschge, assistant editor
Having only joined the team a little over a year ago, my stock of DG stories isn’t quite as big as that of the other guys yet. Still, the past year has seen some pretty memorable moments. There was the time when we won silver in the Information is Beautiful Awards with Christian’s brilliant Oscars infographic. I also have a fond memory of the moment when, after a long series of phone calls to gossip magazine publishers, printers and, finally, paper factories in Finland, I cracked Celebrity Tree Count and figured out how to calculate how many trees were used for individual celebrity gossip stories.
But by far my favourite project to work on has been the Mars One feature published in issue #15 of DG. When I started my research I was entirely skeptical of Mars One and anyone who aspired to re-settle to the red planet. I still don’t believe Mars One will ever take off, but after interviews with the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Nobel Prize winner Gerard ‘t Hooft and Mars Direct’s Robert Zubrin, I can’t help but admire these wannabe pioneers. Zubrin reminded me that some of the biggest innovators in history were considered crazy in their time. I really hope that one of today’s Mars colonisation efforts manages to surprise us all.
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