Got another club newsletter in the post today, which made a nice light read with my morning coffee. So now that the coffee's gone and the reading content has been digested from cover to cover - what do I do with the newsletter?
I always feel guilty about chucking these things in the bin since I am supremely conscious of the amount of effort it has taken to put a newsletter together. Often the editor works on his own and has to beg, borrow and cajole information out of people just to make enough 'news' to fill a decent number of pages. Often there just isn't enough new material to make a regular journal interesting, which is a constant battle for the editor especially when this is part of a membership package. Often the newsletter is the most visible part of the benefits of being a member of an association, so the appearance of its value-add is even more important.
And not only is there the gathering-of-information chore, there is the laying-out-and-formatting-the-information chore on top of that. Then printing. And postage. Sticking on all those labels. Stuffing into envelopes. Queueing at the post office. All on one person's head. Thank God for admin people, is all I can say (and I did, in this post).
So while I am very conscious of the editor's hard graft, I still am stuck with several issues in various formats (single sheet A4, A4s folded into A5 and stapled together, whatever) lying around my home in various piles. Some of the information is useful (display, grafting, taking cuttings, etc) therefore nice to keep on hand as reference. But accessing reference material at a later date would mean some sort of efficient archival system. Who the hell thinks of that after reading a newsletter with their morning coffee? More to the point, who would even have the time to do that? And for every single club paper they receive? Daunting, dudes, daunting.
But why can't all this go on a website, locked in a Restricted Member Access section if necessary? Then subscribers can just look this all up online without having storage and retrieval issues. Added value too for new members - they now have access to issues that pre-date their membership. Admittedly the work gets shifted onto another admin person (let's hear it for the website people out there) - at least for the initial set-up - but I believe the long-term benefits outweigh the downsides. Keep the club costs down and use the dosh for something else.
I believe there are some societies already doing that; kudos to their governing bodies for being forward-thinking, and kudos to the membership for taking the plunge with them.
And yes, there also are (what is steadily becoming) a minority of people who don't have Internet access and who have no intentions of going down that route. I also believe the club should have hardcopy provision for these people. My belief is that clubs should be a disseminator of information, and if hardcopy is what it takes, then so be it.
But at the very least, let paper be an option rather than a default.
And while I'm at it - to all the club people out there who are sat on their nice cushy sofas enjoying their membership benefits: try pulling a finger out and at least submit photos of your trees (or plants or whatever) to your newsletter editor. Or send in questions. Your thoughts to questions. Whatever. Think they don't need newsletter contributions? Well, when was the last time you asked what they need??? If you've read this far, then you will hopefully have realised there are people out there who would probably welcome your contribution. Or have you even thought about it while reading your newsletter with your morning coffee? SHAME ON YOU.
There. Because I couldn't really go this far in the year without offending anyone, could I? Hurrrr.