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My experience with Cafébabel's arboreal editorial line

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News from Home

We’re launching a series of informal articles written by Cafébabel staff to explain the changes the magazine is going through. Most importantly: a new editorial line, new sections, new plans, new faces... in short, it's a whole new world!

A magazine’s editorial line is a living thing.

Like a seed, its initial structure is planted in soil. It acts as the backbone of what will later flourish into a plant. But that flourishing process is something fragile. The seed will not germinate without rich soil, suitable temperatures, enough water and sunlight.

You are probably asking yourself why the hell you’re reading about seeds and plants in an article about Cafébabel’s editorial line, but bear with me.

If an editorial line is a seed then the magazine it grows into is the plant. Following that logic, I see the soil as an ambitious editorial team. I see the temperatures that keep the plant warm as the magazine’s curious readership. The water and the sunlight are the driven journalists and their pitches, respectively.

Cafébabel has seen all of its conditions - soil, temperatures, water and sunlight - evolve drastically over the last year. Having experienced Cafébabel through the lens of a contributor, an editorial intern and now as the English-language editor, it’s safe to say that I’ve witnessed this first-hand. And it’s been amazing, like watching those time-lapse shots in BBC Planet Earth where a sapling turns into an epic jungle tree in seconds.

One of the main reasons I decided to come back and take over the English version of Cafébabel was because I knew editorial changes were in the works. From our previous discussions in editorial meetings, while I was still an intern, I remember Matthieu repeating his theory: “We need to find that sweet spot between short and long articles; between hot topics and cold topics.” I was too shy to say it back then, but I agreed with him entirely.

I have always believed in the value of long-form, slow journalism. Every week, I drool over The Guardian’s long reads and I almost had a heart attack when the Huffington Post published the charismatically designed, interactive article on Millennials. I’m an avid collector of independent print magazines like Delayed Gratification and Intern. It’s also why I read books by authors like Rebecca Solnit.

So when I made my great comeback in March 2017, when we started tightening our participation policy, when we said goodbye to institutional politics and opinion pieces, when we decided not to write a million articles about the UK general elections in 2017, I was thrilled. Little by little, the old leaves of the magazine I once knew were falling off and being replaced by fresh ones. It was a healthy process of abscission.

For me, Cafébabel is finally reaching its potential as the European, participative and journalistically qualitative online magazine I had dreamed it to become. And all of this growth, this flourishing, happened over the span of a few months. So even if we’ve come a long way from blog-like articles in 2011, we’re not going to stop here. Remember: editorial lines are living things.

Story by

Lara Bullens

English editor at Cafébabel and freelance journalist. 🚩Paris, France