Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Green World: where next?

As I mentioned previously I'm now on the editorial board of the Green Party's in-house magazine Green World and, as we had very interesting discussion at the hustings, I thought I'd expand on some of the discussion here which also gives people an opportunity to say how they would like to see GW develop.

There were a number of questions about the business model of Green World for example. I'm not gong to go into detail on this as I'm still getting my head round the numbers myself but as the editorial board is actually more of a management board than anything else it's worth looking at a little.

As it stands Green World comes out four times a year, which should mean we'll have three more editions before the general election. It gets sent to all the members of the party and is sold in bulk to local parties as well as selected newsagents, although as a quarterly magazine that side of the distribution is quite limited.

Although the Party benefits in many ways from having an in-house magazine (a few examples being helping with membership retention, drawing new members closer to the party and publicising important events - as well as using our regular mailing to cut the cost of postal ballots and the like) if we could make the magazine self-funding that would be a very good thing. Although there are some revenue streams, like bulk orders, any issue that pays for itself will do so primarily through advertising.

That raises ethical questions I think. I've no problem with accepting advertising from organisations and companies that have some ethical dimension to them, I'd encourage it in fact. Each advertiser should be assessed on their merits and having the financial backing of the party puts us in a better position to reject advertising where we have doubts. What might be more problematic is an unconscious tendency to tone down controversial articles to make an issue more advertiser friendly. I don't think it's much of an issue at the moment but it is something that is worth being aware of, in order to guard against the possibility.

In terms of content I do think Green World has been consistently improving over the years I've known it. It's a far more interesting and engaging read now than the first copy I picked up. One reason for this are the admirable skills of our editor, Phil Sainty, who has ensured the magazine is always readable, focused and has a much lighter feel than other similar publications I've seen that can tend towards the dense, overly worthy, or appear to be a collection of random pieces submitted by members of, cough, varying quality.

That lightness of touch, like pieces by Mark Thomas and fun segments about what activists are getting up to around the country, isn't just about making a readable publication of course, but also to counter the rather unjust stereo-type that greens are po-faced doom mongers, many of us are rather smiley doom mongers.

While the magazine is an organ of the Green Party it also has an independent editorial line and has never sought to be the mouth piece of the party. Again this is essential if we're expecting normal human beings to actually read the thing. It gives us the opportunity to have lively debates, like the one in the current issue on nuclear power. It's been controversial with some members concerned that we've given a page over to someone who disagrees with the party's nuclear position. Expect a lively letters page next issue!

Despite those concerns I'd love to see more debates of this nature in Green World's pages. It's actually quite hard to win the very real debates in the green movement if we don't actually talk to the people on the 'other side' and in terms of encouraging people to argue their point in an open-minded, persuasive way without becoming doctrinaire you do actually have enough respect for your opponent to do them the courtesy of listening to what they have to say - before rejecting it out of hand!

Anyway, comments welcome as always. Any good ideas for articles, debates and topics I will shamelessly steal and take the credit for - you have been warned!


The Third Estate said...

I'm was very glad to see Mark Lynas's article in the current issue. It is a vital contribution to the debate. There are areas of Green policy I disagree strongly with. Some of these you touched on in your discussion of stem-cell research and alternative medicines. The other is nuclear power. Whilst perhaps not an ideal solution, I'm increasingly coming over to the view that it may be the only one available in the time we have left. We had an interesting discussion on the topic at our local meeting yesterday and it's one of the questions I'm keen to put to Caroline Lucas.


Anonymous said...

I agree that it's got better over the years, but I think 'the team' (Philip?!)needs to be a bit stricter about editing articles down to size - too much is crammed onto a page making the font too small and it feels rather daunting to embark on reading an article. I have to confess I often just look at the pictures, but maybe that's just me being mega lazy and dumbed down!

The Third Estate said...

Maybe if they had pictures of big organic fair trade melons on page three...