Monday, October 15, 2007

Liberal Democrat News - too dull or too interesting?

Jonathan Calder takes John Pugh MP to task for an article on Lib Dem Voice in which the MP for Southport describes the party newspaper Liberal Democrat News as ‘tribal, patronising, [and] horribly on message’, but offers no suggestions for improvement.

While agreeing that Mr Pugh’s intervention is a bit gratuitous, perhaps I can expand the critique a bit, in a constructive sort of way.

First, it has to be said that producing in-house media (of which LDN is an example) is always a difficult job. Having at one stage in my working life edited a magazine (well, glorified newsletter really), I know that you have to toe the official line and too much (or indeed any) iconoclasm or against-the-grain opinions can cause no end of trouble. Even humour can be tricky, with the risk of appearing to poke fun at the organisation you are supposed to be promoting.

But even so LDN is a bit dull. It’s not just to flatter Jonathan that I say that the only bit I regularly find worth reading is the House Points column and since he kindly publishes that on his blog, I often fail to open the envelope that LDN arrives in.

My top suggestion would be to have more interesting columnists on the back page, rather than the various party worthies who occupy it now, usually to puff their own achievements. Both Tony Greaves and Tom McNally used to exasperate me, when they wrote the back page columns, but at least they provoked a reaction other than boredom. There are some good writers in Lib-Dem blogland. Let the two past blog-of-the-year winners James Graham and Stephen Tall take turns writing the column, perhaps alongside Andy Mayer or Linda Jack to name two others who are never less than interesting.

Then perhaps it could carry a few more human interest features about people in the party other than the usual roll-call of MPs etc. Or events in the party other than local by-election wins and constituency dinners. For example, maybe more could have been made of the Liberal Democrat History Group’s ‘greatest Liberal’ competition before the result was announced. And perhaps there needs to be more guidance to writers to avoid sounding too on-message so that it reads a bit more like a newspaper and less like a piece of publicity material.

There, those are a few suggestions. For all I know they might even have been done already and I haven’t been paying enough attention to notice. But they might just get me opening the LDN envelope with a little more enthusiasm.

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