Friday, 29 July 2016

I'd have preferred to be wrong

A picture of my favourite city
A few months ago, I was alerted to the CAMRA Liverpool Branch committee's plans for MerseyAle by John Armstrong the editor at the time. I accordingly wrote a couple of posts expressing my concerns about what may happen to a good local magazine that had successfully combined campaigning and local information in a readable form. Judging by some of the stick I got here, you'd think I'd advocated eating puppies for breakfast.

Well, guess what folks: everything that John anticipated and that I wrote has come to pass. John has written:

As I predicted back in April, the Liverpool CAMRA committee have decided to go ahead with major changes to MerseyAle including:
  • Reducing the size of the magazine from B5 to A5.
  • Reducing the paper quality.
  • Most crucially - removing MerseyAle's editorial independence with all articles now to be vetted by the committee, Soviet Pravda style. You will now read what they want you to read. So after 42 years of a proud tradition of MerseyAle editorial independence this current committee has killed that off.
As I pointed out in May, the long-term commitment of an editor doing a job that entails no remuneration requires autonomy to maintain his or her interest; it's different when an editor is paid because the salary provides the incentive. As a former editor of a much smaller CAMRA magazine, I have a fair idea of how much time, work and commitment is involved.

The committee ran an on-line survey about MerseyAle, but has refused to publish the results. There is no good reason to keep the results secret, especially as all responses were anonymous, so the logical conclusion is that they are not to the committee's liking.

I'd be less critical if the whole business had been carried out openly, perhaps at all-members meetings, but it has been conducted behind closed doors. I'd be more impressed about their talk of campaigning if, for example, the branch chair had attended the Roscoe Head demo a few months ago, which was supported by many CAMRA members from all parts of Merseyside and beyond alongside those from Liverpool branch. Even though this was a major campaign that had attracted national attention, she chose to be elsewhere.

I get no satisfaction in saying that everything I wrote has come to pass, and that the people who came here to say I was jumping the gun, that I had an agenda of my own, that it was all only a consultation exercise, that I was just trying to stir up trouble, etc, have been proved wrong. I say 'no satisfaction' because it looks as though we're going to lose a good magazine, which was the only reason why I wrote the earlier posts.

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