When a mainstream newspaper relaunches itself, its primary concern is the advertising revenue it can generate. Its readers come a poor second.
With Socialist Worker things are very different. Last Saturday we held the first of a series of meetings we are hosting around the country where readers can come along and say what they think of the new look Socialist Worker, make suggestions and voice any criticisms.
It was standing room only as 130 people packed into a seminar room to hear Chris Bambery, the editor of Socialist Worker, explain the rationale behind editorial changes.
Then Yuri Prasad, the paper’s art director, gave an audio-visual presentation of how we developed the new design.
Natasha, a journalist on a mainstream newspaper, commented that “the use of a variety of different voices makes the paper feel like the movement”.
Picking up on her comment, Respect councillor Oliur Rahman said that the paper gave “an opportunity for people beyond the membership of the Socialist Workers Party to contribute—and that’s a superb thing to do”.
Socialist Worker’s reports on controversial issues like Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were welcomed. A parent asked for more articles on why black boys fail at school.
Rita, a Respect candidate in the June elections, said she avidly read the paper, but sometimes found the people selling it were too aggressive.
A number of people responded to her, and the consensus was that it was different selling the paper on the street and selling it inside the movement. There the paper had to be an integral part of the process, and selling it centred on one to one conversation.
Paul, a civil service worker, argued that Socialist Worker’s design should be lively and take risks, citing David Gentleman’s designs for the Stop the War Coalition as an example of what was possible.
In welcoming the redesign, Roger explained he had worked on the paper over 30 years ago. He welcomed the improvements in our cultural coverage.
Another longstanding supporter, John Witzenfeld, who has been a revolutionary socialist since 1958, said, “The new design is excellent. It reminded me of our roots, because our original paper was called Socialist Review and it had a black on white masthead.
“I really like the cheeky star on the masthead.”
Richard, a transport worker from Essex, said he’d sold a paper that morning to a woman who wanted it because of the the picture of Guernica on the front page.
Sarah Cox reminded people that in the 1970s one of the slogans of Socialist Worker had been “Turn readers into writers, turn buyers into sellers”.
Socialist Worker can only work if it is both part of the movement and in dialogue with the movement.
And that relies on it being sold inside the movement, in work, at school and in the colleges, as well as on the streets.
We are putting your suggestions into practice
At Socialist Worker we are thinking big. The response to our redesign and relaunch has been tremendous, and is inspiring us to keep improving the paper.
One project that we already have underway is the production of special four-page supplements.
These will have in-depth coverage of particular issues like young people and crime, or pensions.
We are already assigning specialist writers and photographers to ensure that these reports will help arm our readers with facts and arguments.
We are also planning a major improvement to the Socialist Worker website.
Our aim is to employ a full time web editor who will update our site on a daily basis.
This will enable us to carry stories from around the movement and around the world.
And we will be able to make available full length versions of articles that have had to be cut down to appear in the printed edition.
On the design front, many people have commented on how much they like our use of pictures. It’s worth knowing that a single image in the paper costs us between £100 and £300.
We have to think long and hard before we purchase one, and there are times when we have to admit that we just can’t afford it.
Just to maintain our current high standards stretches us financially. To make the further improvements our readers would like will cost us even more.
That is why Socialist Worker is making a financial appeal.
There is so much more we can do to make your paper even better.
You would be surprised at how far we can make even a small amount of money stretch.