Thank you to the 220 people who so generously responded to the questionnaire sent out with the last issue. We really appreciate your taking the time to give us feedback on what we’re doing. The questionnaire is part of a social audit that Peace News is carrying out, to evaluate what we’re doing, how far we’re achieving the goals we’ve set ourselves, and how we could better serve the community of people seeking positive social change in Britain and around the world.
There will be more reporting on the social audit in future issues, and we will be seeking your input on particular ideas that come out of the process. In this issue, we’re concentrating on three aspects of the questionnaire: the issue of whether we continue with this one-year experiment as a bimonthly, and what kinds of changes you would like to see in PN – and its events (like Peace News Summer Camp).
Before going on to those topics, it may be worth noticing two particular results from the questionnaire, the questions where you got closest to unanimity.
“PN is always refreshing and inspiring – a unique voice.”
In response to the question, ‘Is Peace News’ coverage of direct action important to you?’, 171 of the 178 people who answered this question said: ‘Yes’. That’s 96%.
In response to the question, ‘Would you be happy if a weekly email replaced your paper copy?’, 127 out of the 161 who answered said: ‘No’. That is 79% of people saying they are against replacing the paper version with an email version.
On the question of retaining this 24-page format and going bimonthly for a year, we had substantial support for this. Approval was at 42% (7% strong approval) and disapproval came in a 22% (5% strongly against). A third of people were neutral.
Within that section, we again had similarly strong support for increasing the number of reviews, for putting more editorial resources into the PN website, and for having a big centrefold image.
There was overwhelming support for having a ‘news analysis’ piece putting today’s news in context.
There were two opportunities in the questionnaire to ask for changes to what appears in the paper (and on the website). There was a question about desired changes, and there was also an open-ended question asking for ‘other comments’.
In the latter area, there was a deluge of positive feedback. A third of the people answering the question said something appreciative of the paper.
Here’s a selection of the responses:
‘It is invaluable and unique.’ ‘Love it!’ ‘It is one of the genuine sources of hope for the planet.’ ‘It is always refreshing and inspiring – a unique voice.’ ‘It’s bloody excellent.’ ‘I like how things get followed up – not just one-off “news”.’ ‘Much improved design revamp. Excellent in general.’ ‘I would be desolated without it.’ ‘You’re an inspiration! You cheer me when I feel hopeless about the world.’ ‘When I was a new-comer to this country, it helped me connect and find “my people” in terms of an activist culture. I don’t remember how I came across the paper, but it was a very good thing to have found!’ ‘I’ve found the staff team inspiring and enjoyable to work with.’
There were critical comments, of course. Some of those in the ‘Other comments’ section:
‘Some of the long articles are too heavy!’
“Too middle-class and comfortable about itself to think outside the box.”
‘It can be very weighty and “worthy” in tone and style.’
‘I’d like fewer articles by star gurus of the peace movement George Lakey et al and more “ordinary” voices given a hearing.’
There were political criticisms, including these comments: ‘I am not happy about the “community of activists” idea. Readership of a newspaper should not be exclusive. A Revolution affects the whole of society not just a small inward-looking group. I sometimes wonder if the paper’s spell checker always replaced the word “activists” with “people” it would have wider appeal.’
‘Drawing attention (pink scarves, court appearances, wasting police time) does not produce energy, peaceful co-operation or understanding of each others’ needs.’
There were two comments that mentioned class:
‘Too wordy; too much like a religion. Too middle-class and comfortable about itself to think outside the box. More letters, tweets and blog comments. More news about industrial struggles and community grassroots organising and campaigns.’
‘I had some practical involvement in the production of the paper back in the late 1970s and a feeling, at the time, that, while exclusively white and middle-class, the editors at least knew some ordinary people and the content could be shared with friends & workmates as a source of information on anti-militarist activity and means of making contact with like-minded others. I started losing that feeling around the time of the first Gulf War [in 1991] and now only check it for information I might have missed in more engaged publications and groups. I no longer regard it as an important source of news on even UK pacifist activity, and having learnt, like others outside London and not around large university towns, that Peace News is not interested in our campaigns or experience now tend to deal directly with publications outside the UK instead.’
In the section on suggested changes, the most common response was that no change was needed (eight people said something along the lines of ‘It’s a good mix already’).
Six people referred to the internet – three to either actively support or resignedly accept the idea of ceasing paper publication: ‘Maybe e-newpaper + donation would be more practical financially and environmentally.’ (One person urged us to make an app, which is something we’ve been seeking for three years!)
Very often, we would get directly contradictory advice from different readers.
For example, on gender, ‘Less stuff about gender politics’; ‘More articles and news on queers. More articles and news on racism and sexism’; and ‘Representations of diversity and difference. Integrate a gendered perspective.’ ‘Gender Politics (less of). Feminism becoming more anti-male.’
‘Avoid the samey-type articles – some women’s issues seemed dated.’
There was strong support for more coverage of the environmental movements. We had 12 people urging more reporting of the environment and energy issues (several others mentioned food and land as worthy topics).
One person disagreed: ‘Environmentalism is important but you are Peace News. Threat of war never ceases.’
Two of the most thoughtful comments we got were these:
‘I like the changes that are happening. I would like to see at least one issue a year, or perhaps a special issue, directed at people who are not already activists, that can be handed out at demonstrations, etc. PN is quite focussed on people already active and with quite a large knowledge of peace and justice issues.’
‘I find personal articles/stories very interesting. I am always struck by PN’s use of articles which show peace activism in a different light, ie [the] recent article on alcoholism and activism. Also when contributors feel able to criticise aspects of progressive movements. Too often, because we are often used to attack, progressive movements can be very defensive. I have always found PN to be honest and constructive. This is often more relevant and personal to me, as a local campaigner I have more defeats than victories!’
Thank you again to everyone who responded to the questionnaire – your feedback will help guide our development!