April 2, 2015 | Posted in AUTHOR BLOGS | By

Real Ale Magazines And Newsletters

Greater Manchester has two major free distribution real ale magazines in circulation, one for South Manchester, promoted from Stockport, and a North Manchester based magazine too. They are created by volunteer editors and contributors and paid for through their advertising – mostly by local breweries and pubs.


Both publications focus more on news than general pub, bar and beer features, and in many ways this is a weakness for them. There is a crucial difference between newsletters and magazines.


News is only news when it is new – real ale related news tends to be details of new bars opening, established bars closing or changing hands, breweries introducing new ales; a bar that never had real ale on offer before suddenly launching real ales, etc. Our publications have a duty to share such news obviously, but with magazines that only come out quarterly or even monthly, such news is often common knowledge by the time readers encounter it.


Over-focus on news also limits how many potential writers in the real ale groups can contribute to the publications; many have insufficient journalistic skills or opportunity to get more than basic information on events that might need coverage – The first I might learn of a new pub opening or an established one closing is passing its location on a bus. Closed pubs need careful investigation – pubs have had obituaries written for them when they are only temporarily closed for refurbishments or management changes, etc.


An endless barrage of news features, often over-stated over several pages, can render a newsletter dull too. Many punters picking up magazines may abandon them without fully reading them. A good magazine or newsletter issue will vanish to the last copy in a bar very quickly. Dull ones get left around virtually until the next issue or eventually thrown away by the bar staff.


The best newsletters and magazines are just that, a news-zine; a combination of news and magazine features – general articles and reflections on pub life, anecdotal stories, reflections on pubs of yesteryear, pub and pub-sign histories, and even relevant works of fiction or poetry as a contrast to the news features. I have seen a few magazines (not from Manchester) where news is supplemented by irrelevant padding, including word-search puzzles and articles utterly divorced from pub life. That should certainly never be allowed.


Non-News tends to suffer in news heavy journals, often being held back, issue after issue for some new breaking story the more journalism-driven editors want to focus on, but the balance of styles should really be maintained, giving other potential contributors and writers a sense that they too might get a say in their community’s real ale publications.


Arthur Chappell


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