Life after death for ‘Psychic News’

Eric HattonThat’s a headline that many of you never expected to see. But it’s true. Some 18 months after the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) decided to kill off the world’s only weekly Spiritualist newspaper, Psychic News, which had existed for almost 80 years, the J.V. Trust has become its new owner.

It has succeeded in doing a deal with the liquidator appointed to sort out the affairs of Psychic Press (1995) Ltd, the company the SNU set up to publish the newspaper when it acquired it more than 15 years ago.

News of its rescue comes today in this statement from Eric Hatton (left), the J.V. Trust chairman:

“My fellow trustees and I are absolutely delighted to announce that yesterday, 4 October, 2011, ownership of Psychic News, its archives and other assets passed to the J.V. Trust.

Psychic News has been Spiritualism’s most respected publication for almost eight decades, but since August 2010 its voice has been silent. The process of securing the paper’s future has proved a long and complicated saga, but it gives us great pleasure to know that we have at last been able to honour Maurice Barbanell’s wish that Psychic News should always continue in print as a mouthpiece for the truth of Spiritualism.”

PN front pageHow appropriate that a newspaper that has been proclaiming life after death for so long should now demonstrate it so positively with its own resurrection – though reincarnation might be a better term for its reappearance, since it is likely to have a new look.

How disheartening that its previous owners had neither the foresight nor the commitment to keep Psychic News alive. They could have breathed new life into it in order to attract more readers. They could have changed the publishing framework in order to provide it with financial support.

True, the newspaper had started to make a loss, but they should have realised that even mainstream religions fund publications which act as a voice for their beliefs. The SNU is certainly not short of money for other projects. In March it announced its acquisition of the newly-named Arthur Findlay Centre in Stafford, and renovations to accommodation at Stansted Hall are among other projects that are planned.

Instead of keeping the newspaper alive, they played around with liquidation (two companies were involved at various times); made all the staff redundant and had the gall to claim ownership of the Psychic News assets, which include the newspaper’s masthead, its archives, photo library and other effects, including the desk at which founder and editor Maurice Barbanell worked for many years.

It was this dispute over the ownership of the assets which proved to be a major stumbling block when the J.V. Trust offered to take over the business soon after the newspaper’s closure. The two parties met for discussions but the SNU refused to part with the assets. Why they thought anyone would purchase a loss-making business without its valuable assets I do not know.

Those SNU representatives who falsely claimed ownership of the assets should hang their heads in shame for not having done more to save it and, particularly, for attempting to prevent others from doing so. Their inability to grasp the reality of the situation was appalling and it meant that what could have been a fairly easy transfer of ownership from the Union to J.V. Trust became a long drawn-out process that will certainly have added considerably to the costs of the liquidation process, which means that creditors will get less, as well as taking a physical toll and putting a financial burden on those who lost their jobs.

Fortunately, the Spiritual Truth Foundation (which had transferred ownership to the Union in 1995) took legal advice and challenged the SNU’s claim over the assets. The SNU then conceded it was wrong, dropped its claim and the liquidator was able to offer them to interested parties.

J.V. Trust returned to the table and made the best offer and, after protracted discussions, the deal has been done.

Throughout, Sue Farrow, who lost her job as Editor of Psychic News when the paper closed, has longed for this day, even though at times it seemed beyond reach. She, together with former colleagues, has been keeping the spirit of Psychic News alive with a website called, appropriately, SpiritofPN, and shown remarkable patience and resilience.

This is what Sue has to say on her site about today’s announcement:

“It goes without saying that we are overjoyed that Psychic News is to live again. There is much else to say, but please bear with us as we adjust to the momentous events of the past 24 hours. Detailed coverage will appear here in the next few days. In the meantime, we offer heartfelt thanks to Eric Hatton, Hugh and Margaret Davis [his fellow trustees] for their tireless efforts in restoring Spiritualism’s most iconic voice to the movement.”

Former subscribers and advertisers will be eager to know more about how J.V. Trust plans to transform Psychic News into a viable enterprise in the future. I’ll share that information with you as soon as it is made available. In the meantime, let us hope that it will receive the support it deserves.

For those interested in learning more about this long sorry saga, here are links to my earlier posts:

Death of ‘Psychic News’?  10 July 2010

Tragedy: SNU kills ‘Psychic News’ 16 July 2010

Psychic News: the last issue  21 July 2010

Last Psychic News editor reveals all  22 August 2010

Life, death and asset stripping?  21 August 2010

Psychic News goes into liquidation  24 August 2010

SNU drops Psychic News liquidation  16 September 2010

Questions the SNU must answer  19 September 2010

Spiritualist leader or spoilt child?  30 September 2010

STF issues statement on the future of Psychic News  18 October 2010

Spirit of Psychic News rises from ashes  4 November 2010

Ownership of Psychic News assets under review  16 November 2010

Ownership of ‘Psychic News’ assets has been decided  22 March 2011


Comments are closed.