Time for another Readers' Edition? That depends on you
IT S amazing how a simple idea can take on a life of its own. The Ham&High has a long and distinguished history but it was still capable of breaking new ground last year by publishing its first-ever Readers Edition. As the title suggests, it was a speci
IT'S amazing how a simple idea can take on a life of its own. The Ham&High has a long and distinguished history but it was still capable of breaking new ground last year by publishing its first-ever Readers' Edition.
As the title suggests, it was a special supplement to the paper, consisting entirely of voluntary contributions from readers. Almost 18 months later, it is still being talked about within the regional newspaper industry and on Tuesday, I found myself in front of a hundred or so of the top people in the industry, describing how it all came about.
The conference was staged by the Independent Publishers Forum in Grantham, birthplace of one of the great orators of our time - though I hasten to add that Margaret Thatcher was never my favourite person.
The only dealings I ever had with The Iron Lady was when she phoned me to ask permission to use a photograph in The Downing Street Years. The newspaper I was editing at the time held the copyright.
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I said yes of course, but didn't realise that the book had already been printed (though not yet distributed) and that it had been an oversight on the part of her publishers to request the permission - hence her surprisingly personal approach.
Even though she had been recently deposed as Prime Minister, it was a brave man who said no to Maggie in those days but it did occur to me briefly that I was in the rare position of having her over a barrel, though the thought quickly passed.
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My presentation to the conference was entitled Readers Have The Write Stuff. Many delegates came up to me to talk about it afterwards and as a result I wouldn't be surprised to see several other newspapers around the country inviting readers to pen their own editions.
One thing I'm sure of is that they will do very well indeed to match the efforts of the Ham&High's readers. More than 100 offerings were received, from thoroughly-researched articles and thought-provoking opinion pieces, to reviews of books and stage shows, poems, cartoons and crosswords.
The venture attracted much interest from the world's media and went on to win several awards, including a UK-wide accolade from the Newspaper Society in its 2008 circulation, editorial and promotional awards.
Which of course suggests that it might well be time to produce a second Readers' Edition. Are you up for it? Let me know what you think.
You can email me your thoughts - on this or any other subject of course - at firstname.lastname@example.org.