New ‘Psychic News’ gets warm welcome

JVTrusteesNow that some initial technical problems with its website have been resolved, I’m delighted to report on the very successful relaunch of Psychic News as a magazine.

The happy event took place with the support of one of London’s oldest Spiritualist churches, the London Spiritual Mission, on 15 December 2011. It was heartwarming to see how much backing the publication was given from mediums, contributors and various organisations that have an interest in psychical and spiritual matters.

There was warm applause for Hugh Davis, Margaret Davis and Eric Hatton – the three trustees of JV Trust (pictured left), the charity that is the new owner of Psychic News.

Susan Farrow, managing director of the new company set up by JV Trust to publish Psychic News as a fortnightly printed and online publication, paid tribute to the trustees’ efforts and presented them with lifetime subscriptions to the magazine.

Sue spoke briefly about the events that had led to the change of ownership and introduced JV Trust’s chairman, Eric Hatton, who spoke about the important contribution Psychic News had made to the Spiritualist movement over almost eight decades and the promise he had made many years ago to its founder, Maurice Barbanell, to keep it in print. The publication now continues as the independent voice of Spiritualism under the trust’s protection.

As chairman of the new company, I was also delighted to say a few words, expressing my admiration for the loyalty and perseverance displayed by Sue Farrow and Paul Brett, both now directors of Psychic Press Ltd, during the period of more than a year when the publication’s future was in doubt.

The new Psychic News format has already been greeted with enthusiasm by many of its old subscribers. Some have been so pleased to see it back in print that they even refused to take advantage of a special discount offer that the directors made, to help compensate them for the financial loss they suffered when the previous owners, the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU), closed the newspaper.

First 3 issuesThe first issue of the new magazine is still available online as a FREE download. The second issue was published on the last day of 2011. And the latest issue was published on the 14th. Full details of subscription rates can be found here, at the Psychic News website.

Topics already covered in the first three issues include an interview with Eric Hatton about the work of the JV Trust; ITC: spirit communication for a digital age; Spirit of Youth – the future of Spiritualism; Have researchers found a skeleton in Emma Hardinge Britten’s cupboard?; The way of the White Eagle Lodge; Spiritualism’s Principles in a new light; White Feather speaks on reincarnation; David Thompson’s former circle leader on physical mediumship; Faces of the Living Dead; Are you a Spiritualist or Survivalist?; and much more.

Those of us who have fought long and hard for the return of Psychic News are agreed that we should be focusing now very positively on the future and not dwell on past events or the behaviour of the SNU and its officers – subjects I have dealt with previously on this Blog.

That decision, however, is difficult to abide by when the SNU president, David Bruton, continues to comment on the closure with words that need to be challenged. In an interview in Two Worlds, in answer to a question about the liquidation of the company and the newspaper’s closure in 2010, Bruton says:

“I do not subscribe to a blame culture. No one person should take responsibility for what happened at Psychic News.

But then he adds that circulation fell at an alarming rate after Sue Farrow decided to move the editorial focus “to a more serious journalistic bias, taking the paper back to its roots under founding editor Maurice Barbanell,” adding: “I have to say that as executive director, I supported this editorial policy, but clearly it did not find favour with the wider readership.”

Sue Farrow may have decided to “move the editorial focus to a more serious journalistic bias” – how can that be wrong? – but Bruton is conveniently forgetting one thing.  Sue was an employee of Psychic Press (1995) Ltd. The SNU appointed her as Editor and had the power to fire her if they were not happy with her editorship.

She may have recommended a “back to Spiritualism’s basics” policy, but she could only have implemented that with the full backing of the Psychic Press (1995) directors, which she clearly received. If that decision was the reason for falling circulation, then it was the directors who were responsible, not their employee.

Sue, Paul and Roy with PNBesides, where is his evidence for blaming declining sales on this editorial shift? Did the SNU conduct a readership survey? There could have been several contributory factors.

To try to shift blame onto Sue’s shoulders just as she relaunches the new Psychic News is not only hurtful but shameful.

And one wonders, if he really believes her style of editorship lost readers, why Bruton referred to Sue during the last Board meeting as “the best editor since Barbanell.”

Being two-faced is not a quality one expects from an SNU president. The reality is that the SNU, with plenty of resources, totally mismanaged the effects of declining readership – a phenomenon experienced by practically all publishing companies – and must shoulder full responsibility for the decisions it took.

It should have restructured the company in a way that allowed it to inject more funds into the business and rejuvenate it. This is what another Spiritualist charity has done, very successfully.

I’ve said before that those within the SNU who were involved in Psychic News’ closure should hang their heads in shame and this recent attempt by Bruton to place the blame elsewhere simply reinforces that view.

Fortunately, Psychic News is now in safe hands, with Sue and Paul Brett (pictured with me, above) at the helm, and under the stewardship of Spiritualists whose motives, values and acumen are more in tune with its long-established purpose. All they need now is the full support of Spiritualists around the world, and with a six-month online subscription costing only £14, that’s not asking a lot.

[Photos (c) Danny Lee]

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