Common User

Me rambling on.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Who owns the Oldie ?

Last month marked the 200th anniversary of The Oldie.
Iain Irvine at the time in the Independent Media section interviewed Richard Ingrams and saluted what is a remarkable grassroots publication.

(Ingrams) prefers to let writers come to him with what they want to write about, and the writers needn't be famous or even professional. Once he had established regular slots such as "I once met..."; readers eagerly submitted their own subscriptions, which after suitable editing; were published.

Indeed unsolicited articles are among Ingrams favourite: an account of a year spent as Rebecca West's personal assistant by Gill McClaren Row, and an astonishingly funny article by Iain Topliss about his attempt to confirm a piece of information that he first found in his 1953 Schoolboy Pocket Diary

To read The Oldie is to get the sense that it is owned by the readers."
The techniques that Ingrams uses are fairly time-honoured but some internet brightsparks are often apt to appropriate them as amazing new inventions. Bookcrossing, for example. Here's Ingrams in his editors letter.
"Mankind has made great strides in the 21st century. But there are still a great many people who have never even seen a copy of The Oldie. You can help to spread the good news by leaving this celebratory issue in your doctors or railway station waiting room.
And obviously citizen journalism or rather endless charming tales of readers meeting old actresses, their beloved school days, or how Graham Greene (the cad!) nicked their girlfriend.

Julie Burchill once called The Oldie the most pathetic magazine ever published. I think The Oldie and the Modern Review (which was probably the magazine least owned by its readers) are two of my favourites. Both are suffused with arrogance and a rejection of common magazine techniques. Yet one was a completely elite, cliqued top-down affair and the other an open, almost amateur democratic effort. Well I am 40 next year.