Full colour truth

Because real issues need as much colour as celebrities on Page 3s. Correction: more

Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- this magazine is going full colour, a milestone for any publication. In printing parlance, it is called 'going 4 colour'. In 1992, when it was launched, the magazine had forty-eight pages of two-colour -- black and red -- and eight all-colour pages. In 2003, this increased to 16 pages.

We live in an age of colour. All modes of communication have become colourful. Black and white photography today is phenomenally expensive; colour photography is cheap. With the advent of digital imaging and the demise of film negatives, black and white has become redundant. Time was when original images were black and white, and were made unreal by hand-colouring. Today a digital colour image is the original, made unreal by turning it black and white.

But going 4-colour isn't just about being colourful. It is about entering a different semiotic regime of communication, about enabling diversity in representation. It will provide a new, more complex, dimension to the graphic communication of statistics, the numbers and diagrams we are so obsessed with. It will give our designers a better handle to be epic, or minimalist, suave or absurd. You can expect a more mature truth to emerge in our stories. How many urban readers recognise the colour of laterite? How many of us know the colour of chromate pollution? Up till now, we made up for this inability in our captions, turning them into explanatory notes that verbalised what wasn't visible. That's no longer necessary. On pages 36-37, you will see how iron ore tailings in irrigation water turn fields an eerie, poisonous red.

Take this issue's cover story on pages 18-28. Japanese encephalitis is by now an open-and-shut case: buy vaccines, and the disease will be controlled. But such a black-and-white approach vanishes in the murky chaos of the hospital ward in which children die. Our stories always seek to capture the shades of grey. So far, we relied on verbalising these shades. Now, we can actually show them as they are.

Down To Earth wasn't brought out to fill a gap in the market. We have created our market, but we still haven't managed to create any competition. That we regret. Because the problems that comprise our mandate have only increased. The demands on us have increased. Going full colour is one more attempt to fulfil our mandate. We look forward to your feedback.

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