Today’s digitalization is constantly redefining the world of journalism. How can costly print media survive in a world where breaking news is just another notification on our mobile phones? Maxime Fayet and Delphine Riand are tackling the challenges of the Digital Age in what may seem to be the most unexpected of ways: producing a 180-page biannual printed magazine about Switzerland. Immersions is a forward-thinking and innovative magazine that explores different ways of storytelling, how we can share stories about our communities and ourselves. It is a medium which inspires readers who love beautiful stories, culture, photography, and Switzerland in all its diversity.
For the Mois de la Francophonie, the Embassy of Switzerland and International Arts and Artists at Hillyer welcomed the cocreators of Immersions for a journey to French-speaking Switzerland, a place that cherishes its traditions while ceaselessly innovating. Join us as we sit down with Maxime and Delphine to explore their approach to slow journalism and discover the source of inspiration behind Immersions.
Tell us about your background. How did you both meet?
Maxime Fayet: I am from Lausanne in the French-speaking Canton de Vaud. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Political Science from the University of Lausanne, and a Master’s degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Neuchâtel. Delphine and I met during our studies; we both pursued the same degrees at the same time. Before that, I had tried out many different disciplines as well. I spent one year at an architecture school and one year at an art school, during which I began experimenting with photography. Today, I use all those acquired skills from my different experiences for our magazine.
Delphine Riand: I am from Sion in the French and German-speaking Canton of Valais. I have a very similar background to Maxime. We met during our first year at the University of Lausanne. It has always been easy to work together because we share the same work ethic. We trust each other, so it is easy to be confident about our work.
How would you describe your magazine Immersions and what makes it so unique?
Delphine Riand: It is a very big magazine with 180 pages, which is quite a lot compared with traditional paper magazines. Each issue covers a different topic that is explored through pictures, texts, drawings, comics, poetry and so on.
Maxime Fayet: Exactly; by introducing those different formats and mixing the different genres, we hope to bring something special into the world of journalism. Also, the aesthetics and the graphic design of our magazine are essential to us. I believe that “beauty” is not something you find today in the media because it requires a lot of money and time.
Delphine Riand: Another thing is that there are no advertisements in our magazine. We do not want to break the content by advertising something, but rather have our content flow. It is sort of an uninterrupted journey and story for our readers.
What inspired you to create Immersions?
Maxime Fayet: We created Immersions while pursuing our Master’s degrees in Journalism and Communications. At that time, we were reading a lot of different independent magazines. A friend of Delphine’s discovered The Collective Quarterly, a U.S. magazine that journeys to one place per issue to discover the essence of a region during a moment in time. The magazine really inspired us and that was our beginning.
Delphine Riand: Both of us were already working at different media companies. Media and journalism is a very competitive industry. We both agreed that we wanted to be our own boss and have the freedom to do exactly what we want. That was a challenge and we did not know it would take so much work at first. But I believe it was a challenge worth taking.
Maxime Fayet: What has also inspired us up until today is Switzerland itself. We kept reading magazines with beautiful and inspiring stories of places so far away. We wanted to read things that we could relate to as well! We were sure that if we went to the top of a Swiss mountain or visited a neighborhood in Geneva, we would find inspiring stories to tell and create beautiful pictures to show.
In times of enhanced digitalization, you are going against the stream by publishing a printed magazine. Why is your concept so successful?
Maxime Fayet: In today’s world, there is an oversupply of information. There are thousands of pictures on the Internet and we do not know what is true or what is “fake news.” Then you have Immersions: a printed magazine that you can keep reading for one, two or maybe even three months — it stays accurate and relevant. It is comforting and that is why people like it, I think. I also believe that people appreciate good quality, and always will. When you check your news feed online, you can’t necessarily tell if it’s good quality or not because who knows, you might just not have the right screen size for the content. We are not against digitalization or online magazines. In addition to Immersions, Delphine works as a web manager and I work as a content manager. For us, print was just the best way to share our stories. If we have a new project one day, it might be online — who knows?
What do you want to portray of Switzerland?
Maxime Fayet: Our aim is always to find new and different ways to present Switzerland to our readers. Yes, sometimes we try to cover what people expect . . . the cows, cheese and chocolate in Switzerland. But Switzerland is also beyond just that; and we try to find something else that people might not have known about our country. In the end, we want to find a balance between the known and the unknown, the old and the new, and the traditional and the innovative.
Delphine Riand: When we cover a certain place, for example, our goal is always for the local resident to discover something new about that place. And then it would be nice for people who don’t know the place to go visit it as well.
Maxime Fayet: Exactly. Sometimes we go somewhere and don’t quite know what we will discover. When we’re on the field, we’ll sometimes meet somebody who will give us a new topic or idea to cover. We can do this because we are independent. I would say that we are very open to new ideas. It is also always really nice for us to discover the diversity in our country; to explore things about the German and Italian parts of Switzerland and to connect those different aspects together.
What is the difference between the journalistic landscape in Switzerland and the USA?
Delphine Riand: The Swiss media landscape is so unique because of the four languages, which makes it difficult to compare the two countries. In the United States, there is only one official language. You can write about anything anywhere and everybody will understand you.
Maxime Fayet: But at the same time, both media landscapes have been going through similar challenges with digitalization. The New York Times and The Washington Post have asked themselves the same questions about how to adapt to the new processes as the newspapers in Switzerland. Digitalization in the field of journalism and the press is an international phenomenon.
What is next for you?
Maxime Fayet: We already know what topic we want to do for our next issue. In general, people seem to like what we are doing. Immersions has opened many new doors for us, so we will just see where it leads us next.