Evolution of the Magazine

Evolution of the Magazine

In 1948, the Grapevine changed its format from a three-column newsletter to its present digest size. As the Grapevine gained readers, it gained contributors. More and more, the pages were dominated by the voices of recovering alcoholics. Gradually, book reviews, reprints and general-interest articles gave way to AA members’ stories of experience, strength and hope.

Along with their stories of personal transformation, stories about how AAs use the principles of AA in their daily lives became central to the Grapevine. These stories began to be highlighted in special departments. Many of today's departments—including "Dear Grapevine," "Newcomers" and "At Wit’s End" evolved from such antecedents as "Points of View," "Beginners Meeting" and "Barley Corn." A sense of humor, a staple of recovery for many alcoholics, was a mainstay of the magazine early on. The first cartoon appeared in the third issue of the magazine and the humorous feature, "Barley Corn," was launched in its second year. Grapevine departments now include “Emotional Sobriety,” “Our Personal Stories,” “Steps and Traditions,” “Sponsorship,” “Into Action,” “Y.E.S. (Youth Enjoying Sobriety),” “Spiritual Awakenings,” “Around AA,” “Old-Timers” and “What’s on Your Mind?”

Over the years, the number of pages in the Grapevine ranged from eight in the first 18 issues, with a large newsletter format, to its current length of 64 pages, in a digest format. It also ran to 32 and 48 pages in length during periods in between. Color appeared gradually. An outstanding example was the full-color reproduction of "The Man on the Bed" painting, painted by a volunteer Grapevine illustrator for the centerfold of the December 1955 issue. While the pages inside remained black and white, the first full-color cover appeared on the June 1989 issue, and most covers have been full-color since 1994.

As the magazine continued to evolve over the years, the Steps, the Traditions, the Preamble, the Serenity Prayer and the Responsibility Declaration began to appear in the magazine on a regular basis.

In 2007, the Grapevine saw several changes. Staff asked readers to suggest a new name for the humor section, and the winner, “At Wit’s End”—the name for Bill W.’s study at his home, Stepping Stones—first appeared in April 2007. Also in 2007, the 57th General Service Conference recommended that “the Grapevine and La Viña include a section on the medical, legal and social aspects of alcoholism.” That section, a sampling of current reports from the field of alcoholism, made its debut as “Alcoholism at Large” in October 2007.

At the celebration of its 65th anniversary in 2009, Grapevine welcomes a new generation of alcoholics. Still packed with the same great first-person stories, letters, humor and member art, Grapevine has undergone a complete makeover. As of March 2009, it’s now full-color and staple-free. It remains the Fellowship’s magazine: “AA’s Meeting In Print.”

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