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Development Outline For Weekly Newspaper Of The Irish Left
arts and media |
Thursday September 06, 2012 19:08 by Diarmuid Breatnach - Personal capacity
INSTEAD OF JUST MOANING ABOUT THE CAPITALIST MEDIA, CAN WE PRODUCE A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?
Is such an alternative possible -- is it within our capacity, our resources? Would it be viable? This article takes the view that the answer to all those questions is YES and sets out some practical ideas to create the newspaper and to maintain it.
DEVELOPMENT OUTLINE FOR A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER OF THE BROAD IRISH REVOLUTIONARY LEFT
One of the most persistent complaints from individuals and organisations on the Irish socialist and anti-imperialist Left is that of a biassed mass media which distorts domestic and international news or omits it, which censors letters of socialist or ant-imperialist nature and which publishes comment of a pro-capitalist and/or pro-imperialist nature.
Little effort however has been expended by more than some small numbers of individuals and collectives to produce a viable alternative, a regular socialist and anti-imperialist newspaper with a wide reach, able to respond to news in a fairly short time-frame, as well as able to publish analysis and comment of a socialist anti-imperialist nature.
It would seem that a daily newspaper is far from our capabilities at present but I would contend that a weekly newspaper is not. I believe that we have the potential readership to sustain such a newspaper: among the political circles of the revolutionary and anti-imperialist Left, among radical social democrats and among the concerned masses. And we surely have the journalistic and organisational capacity to produce it. If that is so, then what remains to be determined is whether we have the will and the financial means to match the task.
To take the last component first, solutions to the difficulty of funding the production of such a newspaper have generally centred around the need for business and/or trade union advertising. I take the position that the newspaper must be totally politically independent and therefore must be also financially independent. It must not be hampered in its attacks on capitalists nor on compliant union leaderships. That then leaves two main forms of funding (not excluding individual donations and small business advertisements): popular subscription and sales.
Popular subscription has launched more than one publication. To take one example, Howard Fast (1914 – 2003), a US Marxist, had completed his work Spartacus after a year-and-a-half ‘s writing but his prospective publisher was forced out of his company along with Fast’s plan of publication and no other company willing to undertake publication of his work could be found. It was the era of the McCarthy anti-communist inquisitions and state trials.
Fast launched a popular subscription campaign in 1951 asking donors to buy a signed copy in advance of publication and out of those advances was able to publish the book in December of that year and to reprint again that same month, going through no less than six reprints the following year. The book sold 45,000 hard-back copies and millions in paperback and was translated into at least 14 languages over the years (http://www.trussel.com/hf/spartacus.htm). The screenplay of the story later reached an even wider audience with the film under the same name (1960) directed by Stanley Kubrick and the story of which has since been depicted in a number of television series.
Another example is that of the Basque-language pro-independence daily newspaper Egunkaria (1919-2003) which was launched with popular subscriptions of thousands of shares mostly from the Basque and Catalan Countries and which later received some Basque Government funding. This took place without there having ever been a daily all in Euskara language and only a short-lived weekly previously. Egunkaria was closed by the Spanish state in 2003 with the arrest of journalists and management and the torture of four of them but Berria has filled its slot (and GARA, bilingually, is a daily newspaper).
Income can of course be generated from the sale of newspapers but there are two problems generally recognised with that:
1) of distributing widely enough and
2) of setting the price at a level which will give the newspaper an adequate return but which will still be low enough for regular and casual readers to purchase it.
Newsagent shops take a hefty commission on the newspapers and that cannot be avoided if the newspapers are to be placed there. Street sellers of newspapers were common years ago and they got a commission on the sales too, enough for them to make a living out of it. Nowadays street sellers are mostly centred around public transport stations and traffic lights, where they can sell to halted traffic.
Left-wing and Republican papers have been sold by sellers in pubs, at meetings and on demonstrations.
It seems to me that sellers of the newspaper envisaged could set up their own sales runs, including housing units, pubs and streets, circles of friends and workmates, places of study .....
I would contend that with an on-line version and hard copies sold by newsagents and by dedicated sellers (sellers selling the paper only or mainly) working on commission, we could reach a large readership. With good news reporting and comment, a large readership would be interested in reading the paper and over time revolutionary ideas could have quite an effect. With fund-raising events and popular subscriptions we could generate enough income to launch and, with those and with sales, to maintain the newspaper.
The only question remaining then is: do we have the will to undertake this task?
See below under separate headings a list of relevant details
• Will publish news, analysis and other material from a revolutionary socialist and anti-imperialist perspective (the terms “socialist and anti-imperialist” are intended here as inclusive and will include trends in Ireland such as Marxist, Marxist-Leninist, Trotskyist, Anarchist and Republican)
• But will not usually publish social-democratic material, radical or otherwise (exceptions would be letters, publicising events etc.)
• Will attempt to deal with important questions of the day
• Will not publish pro-imperialist, religious sectarian, racist, miscogynist or homophobic material
• Will ensure its political independence from any political party or organisation or from any donors
• Will eschew funding from government sources, from bodies of a capitalist or imperialist nature or otherwise of a nature contrary to the basic principles of the newspaper
• Will refrain from political sectarianism, discouraging it and not allowing it space
• But will also permit and even encourage debate on political lines, although the lines being criticised may well be easily identified with a particular political body
• And will not be inhibited from attacking any political party or individuals who are in Government or in any pact with it
• Nor from attacking the positions of those in opposition in the Dáil
• Will be managed on a day-to-day basis by the responsible officers and bodies who will act in line with the newspaper’s basic principles
• Will set up a means of dealing with complaints against the paper or its officers and sellers which will endeavour to be speedy in operation and just, giving feedback to the complainant either personally or publicly
• Will endeavour to ensure its protection from attack by the state or pro-capitalist or imperialist forces through legal protection, security and other means.
See also Basic Principles
The newspaper should cover news on
• Industrial action in Ireland
• Protests and political action and such events in Ireland
• Events of a political nature abroad
It should also publish
• comment and analysis on currrent affairs, in articles and letters
• historical analysis of a political nature
• analysis and comment on popular culture, including sport
• reviews of films, theatre, books etc
It is suggested at this point that the hard copy of the newspaper should be A3 size and usually of 8 pages. This could be printed on two A2 sheets (double A3 size), folded one inside the other.
The on-line version may include items not available in the hard copy and may thereby be larger.
The format of the newspaper should be such that it can be produced on a weekly basis without too much difficulty and also read without too much difficulty, so that the main type of the body of articles should be of the dimensions of e.g. 12pt Times New Roman.
Both electronic and hard copy formats should also be fairly attractive to the eyes with uses of headlines, photographs, cartoons and some use of colour.
MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTION ORGANISATION
The newspaper management should concentrate on
• the process of deciding content for each issue
• production of each issue and electronic publication
• distribution of hard copies
• financial management of each issue
• longer-term financial management of the newspaper
• security (legal, practical etc.)
In order to achieve these tasks the following responsible committees and officer posts are envisaged:
• Editorial committee – to decide content, length of articles etc. and to report to the Management Committee
• Sub-editors – to layout the pages and publish the electronic version
• Production manager – to organise production of the hard copy and to report to the Management Committee
• Distribution commitee – to organise distribution of hard copies to different areas and payment of dedicated sellers, as well as collection, accounting for and disposal of unsold copies
• Distribution Manager – to oversee distribution of hard copies and payment of dedicated sellers, as well as collection and accounting for unsold copies and to report to the Management Committee
• Web site and electronic social media moderators
• Financial committee – to ensure the survival and management of the newspaper on a sound financial basis and to report to the Management Committee
• Bank account signatorees
• Management Committee – to oversee the maintenance and development of the newspaper and its various functions, with representation across those functions, holding regular meetings with written record.
Total staff: Initially, perhaps a permanent central complement of fifteen personnel, working on a daily or half-weekly basis, not counting dedicated sellers or delivery personnel
In addition to its promotion by sellers, the newspaper management and supporters will endeavour to maintain and widen its promotion by
• Web site
• social media sites
• Free advertisements in alternative news media
• Posters and stickers
• Clothing, badges, pins, bags, T-shirts etc
DISTRIBUTION AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
• Initially funding drive by domestic and international public subscription
• Subsequently funding drive with regular sales by dedicated sellers and newsagent outlets
• Also by occasional fund-raising events and subscription drives
• Suggested price of newpaper €1.70; suggested comission for dedicated sellers fifty or 70 euro per copy.
DEDICATED SELLERS are those who sell only or mainly this publication with their own sales routes including communities, workplaces, study institutions, sports circles, clubs, pubs etc.
They will sell on commission and pay for all copies sold, returning unsold copies. Their work will be overseen by the Distribution Committee and, ultimately, by the Distribution Manager, reporting to the Management Committee.
WIDER PARTICIPATION IN POLICY-MAKING AND ORGANISATION
Some further thought will need to be given to
• methods of selection of officers and of committee membership
• participation in decision-making of dedicated sellers
• and of promoters of the newspaper
• and to input from a wider circle of sympathisers
• as well as to payment of distributors, journalists and managers (perhaps out of an allocation per issue sold).