When a group of young, ambitious and inspired minds massed together to tear down the forbidding frontiers of magazine journalism, there should be some kind of trepidation. Could this enterprise be a youthful exuberance, flight of fancy or a real product of vision? There have been so many evergreen memories of failed magazine enterprise. Many have disappeared into the editorial waste paper baskets of regrettable postscript of history. It is a crowded genre of publishing business and to stand shoulder-to- shoulder with the old, tried and tested titles, idealism has to be pragmatic, pocket has to be deep, knowledge has to be profound and contacts has to be wide.
Lekan Fatodu, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Check Out magazine must have wrestled with the above dilemmas before venturing out into the tempestuous and unpredictable market of magazine publishing in London. There is visible enthusiasm, confidence and self-professed faith in his ability and that of his team to breakthrough the rocky terrain of glossy titles.
Check Out in its maiden edition is an intimidating buffet of excellent journalism. The glossy cover has the smiling face of a beautiful African lady in all her elegance of grandeur. There is a calming assurance that the inside pages will offer more appetising pot-pourri of sizzling stories of human angle dimension. But before we navigate the rich inside stories, it is necessary at this juncture to recalibrate the publisher’s mission statement.
Lekan Fatodu affirmed on the publisher’s page that Check Out magazine will liberate travellers from the old ways and chart a new path that will offer ‘more than what you think you know’. It would be an all-informative and entertaining experience with broad appeal to Nigerians whose loop of catchment area is expanding but without a unique migrant-centred magazine to bring expatriation information for both inbound and outbound travellers.
As a vibrant vignette, continued Fatodu, a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, Check Out will appeal to students, first time and frequent travellers, professionals, the business and the relaxed intellectual class. It is committed to the needs of Nigerians journeying beyond the shores of Nigeria, especially those visiting the UK. Check Out is going to break impenetrable boundaries through its list serve pages where information about schools, parties, restaurants, bars, clubs and up to the minute immigration tips would be given, shorn of any tedious journalese.
Check Out will be a quarterly magazine. It will cater for a wide range of views, tastes and awareness for hard, human copy. Its core editorial mission is to communicate exilic narratives and make them more poetically expressive. Other regular departments will include annual events, support, restaurants, bars and clubs, current events, services, stores, media, survival tips, worship centres, professional courses, travel, universities, pacesetters, tits bits, socio-cultural celebration, business as usual and cargo and flight. Its cover price in the UK is £3.00, 500 naira in Nigeria and 5 cedis in Ghana. Remarkably, and to give the title a boost, Check Out will be distributed by Jaymags, a major distributor of Afro-Caribbean newspapers and magazines in the UK. Realising the importance of circulation as the lifeblood of a magazine, Fatodu has ensured that the magazine is widely available in most convenience and Afro-Caribbean stores and in airports in both Nigeria and Ghana.
However, in its second edition, which came out in early 2009, a new column, inspiration has been a rousing success because of the calibre of personalities interviewed. Dapper and confident Chuka Umunna, predicted to be British answer to American Obama was on the cover. Business mogul, Femi Otedola delivered business punch lines for aspiring entrepreneurs in a direct, straight to the marrow style. In this edition, Fatodu opened up a new vision and plug into the vibrant and rich Ghanaian community through social, cultural, educational, business and entrepreneurial connectivity. Tucked inside is the opinion column where a guest writer could talk shop on topic of interest.
Check Out house style is simple, direct and uncluttered prose. There is no pretension to high intellect. The magazine is not sexist. Its glossy appeal will make it an instant hit with female readers while men will find the content hard to ignore. Now that the third edition is on its way to the press, Fatodu and his able team of journalists like Damola Babalola, Jumoke Alawode-James, Chris Obasohan and Bola Taiwo will be looking for improvement without compromising standard. The high pictorial standard should be maintained and seasoned writers drafted in to encourage followership and loyalty among readers.
Check Out as a name for a soft sell, general interest magazine which professes to deal with exilic narratives may sound odd. Thankfully, Fatodu is aware of the misinterpretation of his title for a grocery store magazine. Check Out as a name evolved from the hilarious outburst of consummate actor, Enebele Elebuwa, who in the 80s (Andrew No Go Check Out) became synonymous with a mad desire to get out of Nigeria. So, the name Check Out has immediate association with human drama, history, travel, migration, movement, Diaspora settlement and nostalgic passé which seem to capture the canon of its unique niche.
For a magazine to be birth at a period of worldwide economic recession and credit crunch calls for a wing and a prayer. For Check Out to hit the newsstands when advertising famine is hitting every newsroom equally calls for quiet respect and homage to determination and fortitude. Whether Lekan Fatodu is a Rambo clone – someone who is naturally tougher at the end of the continuum- or not, only time will tell.
As I slip back into my literary sabbatical, my challenge to Fatodu and his team is to behave like mad Irish hounds driven by courage to go on and on and on and on.