How to Set Up a Local Newsletter
- ORGANISE A MEETING:
You've talked about it down the pub with a few mates. You all think it's a
great idea. There are a few more people you can think of who'd be interested.
So just get on with it - it's not going to happen otherwise. Fix a date, time
and venue (could be someone's house, it's not a public meeting). Leave other
possibilities wide open. It's important for everyone to have had a say in the
shaping of the project from the start.
- GET IT ALL SORTED:
There's no point in having your founding moment and then coming away having
vaguely agreed to do something soon. Probably. When we've got our act
together. The minimum you should have agreed is a name and address, which
will in turn enable you to set up a building society account in your
newsletter's name. We use a PO Box, which costs about fifty quid a year. We
had to chip in up front to start it but donations over the next 12 months
covered the renewal (just). It would probably be better to have an actual
local street address, not just to save cash but so people could drop stuff in
by hand and bypass the official mail system.
- THINK OF A GOOD NAME:
OK, maybe you can't take that advice from a group with a title like The
Pork-Bolter. But it is a genuinely historical nickname for Worthing people
and the piggie identity has provided us with hours of puns. The main
requirements are that it should be a local name and that it shouldn't put
people off reading your stuff by being too overtly political. This may not
come naturally to most would-be rabble-rousers, but you are addressing
ordinary people here and not fellow subversive scum. On the same lines, there
is no need to invent a seperate name for the group producing the newsletter.
It may well prove an own goal to declare that ON THE BOG - What's Going Down
in Little Bogweed is published by the South Bogshire Emiliano Zapata
Revolutionary Militia Propaganda Outreach Cell.
- THE NITTY-GRITTY:
Thinking of a name is the fun bit and may well take up 95% of your opening
meeting (if you let it). But you've also got to start thinking about boring
detail, like what size is the newsletter going to be, how often will it come
out, how many will you get printed and so on. Without wanting to come across
all sycophantic, we were greatly inspired by the Sch-you-know-who in our
inception and had no qualms about blatantly copying their format. You'd be
amazed at how much you can fit on a double-sided piece of A4. As far as
frequency is concerned, once a month seems about right for us. Quantity is
obviously limited by funds. Try getting 500 done to start with, then up it to
1,000 or more if your distribution is working. Another advantage of
double-sided A4 format is that it is easy to photocopy and you may be able to
supplement your print run with the help of office-worker volunteers (and
various people will be busy copying and distributing them round their mates
and colleagues who you won't even know about ...).
Cheap photocopying/printing is hard to come by, but very useful. Don't just
rush out to the nearest High Street print shop. Ask around for ideas about
cheaper options. Try your local student union or college print department or
local resource centre. If all else fails, why not bring out the newsletter at
whatever cost and appeal to readers for leads on cheaper printing. You never
know who may come forward.
- PAYING FOR IT:
You'll probably find yourselves fulfilling this role. But spread between the
group members it doesn't come to much. If you meet at someone's home instead
of in the pub, you'll have probably paid for the next issue from what would
have been spent at the bar. Other costs may well be covered by
donations/subscriptions once you've got going.
- GETTING IT OUT:
Distribution is a piece of cake when it's free. It's just a question of
getting them all out into the hands of the local population. You can do that
most directly by standing in the town centre and thrusting them rudely into
people's hands (with a smile on your face). And you can leave them in public
places like the library and town hall (small amounts but frequently - they
tend to get removed). Ask in shops if you can leave a pile on the counter.
And in pubs. You'll be surprised at the positive reaction to a lively local
newsletter. Keen people should also be able to subscribe for a small charge
to cover postage (though since they're local you could drop them in by hand
and save the stamp).
You'd forgotten about that small detail, hadn't you? What do you put in the
bloody thing? This should not really be a problem for anyone who's got as far
as even thinking about doing a newsletter. First of all you read all the
mainstream local papers. And then you get very angry with all the stuff the
council's up to and the MP is spouting on about. And then you don't just
forget about it and resolve not to read annoying local papers anymore, but
instead you cut out the relevant bits and bring them along to the next
newsletter meeting. And everyone else says how crap the council is and takes
the piss a bit and someone else has cut a bit out of The Big Issue which sort
of fits in. Meanwhile, a person with biro-manipulating skills writes down the
best bits. And lo, the contents start to emerge. Add in your own little
campaigns (anti-GM, anti-CCTV, anti-negative attitudes etc), plus titbits
about worthy local groups (Friends of the Earth, animal welfare, etc, etc)
and you've got a newsletter.
Gives a positive focus amidst all the sniping from the sidelines. But
obviously depends on what's happening locally. And what you're into.
- KEEP IT LOCAL:
Forget the recommendation to act locally and think globally. You have to
start thinking locally as well. Only then can you go on to draw your
political conclusions. For instance, trying to persuade people here that
global capitalism is a bad thing because it is destroying the Amazon
rainforests is a waste of time. But talk to them about the way that
money-grabbing property developers are allowed to build all over green spaces
on the edge of your town and your readers will understand why you then call
for an end to the rule of greed and money over people and countryside. In
your newsletter your views can clearly be seen as common sense. You are
normal and the council/property developers/government are the outsiders -
reversing the way radical views are conventionally presented. Use words like
'we' and 'our' a lot.
- HAVE A LAUGH:
A jokey approach makes people read your newsletter and explodes certain
ill-founded stereotypes about types involved in radical political
initiatives. Could be a problem, though, if your group does in fact happen to
be entirely composed of humourless left-wing gits.
Remember that you can get done for libel if you make certain claims about
individuals. Get round this with humourous digs and heavy use of satire and
sarcasm (think Private Eye, Have I Got News For You, etc). It is worth
knowing that you cannot libel a council - so go for it!
You yourselves are the new media for the town, so you don't need to worry
about publicity. But if they want to give a rival organ a boost, that's just
- CARRY ON PUBLISHING!
There will be ups and downs. New people will join your circle. Others will
drift away. It might seem like nobody's taking any notice of you at all. But
in fact your subversive message will be permeating the very fabric of your
community. It's got to be worth it.
Read this and more in the latest SchNEWS book.