Campaign Against Cruelty
An animal activists' handbook

 

8. NEWSLETTERS

"Without a journal of some kind you cannot unite a community." - Gandhi

To make everyone in your group feel involved, put everything that your group has done or plans to do in your own newsletter. This is great for people who can't make it to meetings, and new members can read the back issues to get a full picture of the group's recent history. The newsletter will pre-empt a lot of questions at meetings, so that they can focus on planning and decision making. Looking back on past issues will give a real sense of achievement to the group.

For a superb example of what can be done, check out the London Animal Action Newsletter.

The Editor

One person must take responsibility for editing the Newsletter. It's usually quite easy to choose this bod, because it's a big job requiring excellent English, free time, access to a computer, and the ability to totally rewrite some articles that ramble. If you have more than one person in the group who can and wants to do this, consider yourselves unique. However the more people can help with typing, cartoons, copying and distribution, the better.

What to Include

The Editor gets reports from members of whatever you think will interest the group. This can be summaries of what you've been doing and plan to do, a calendar of coming events, press cuttings from other animal rights magazines and national papers, cartoons, and articles by members about anything to do with animal rights. Try to avoid articles about feeding goldfish and stick to a mixture of useful stuff for new converts such as recipes (which should always be vegan), and inspiring and uplifting reports for campaigners.

An easy way to fill space is to photocopy articles directly from other mags. But that's pretty boring. A more interesting venture is to ask members to contribute something that they know a lot about based on their beliefs or experience:

A Day In The Life of a Sabber
How I Converted My Mum to Veganism
A Survey of Wholefood Shops in Our Town
Are Vegans Better in Bed?

In fact whatever, er, turns you on. Other staple fare are book reviews, reports on ongoing national campaigns like Hillgrove cat breeders or Ban Live Exports, news of new products in the local shops, and Freepost addresses and Freephone numbers of animal abusing organizations. We believe this is for information only, though someone did once say something about bricks being very heavy.

You can also ask local ethical businesses to donate some money in return for advertising, or to sell your newsletter in their shops.

How to Write a Fun Article

Imagine you're sitting with a friend explaining how you eat. Or you're in the kitchen together, or at the shops. What would you say to her? Imagine how you speak when you're feeling happy and excited at being with someone who wants to copy you. Hear yourself speaking. Now write down what you're saying to her. Write down everything you can think of about the subject. If you know it, your readers need to know it too or they will not understand as well as you do.

Now rewrite by cutting. Don't use a paragraph to say what can be said in a sentence. Most of the words are unnecessary. Cut, cut, cut. Then cut some more. Make every word count.

Look again at what you've written. All the essential information is there. But is it fun to read? If you want to hold the attention of a pre-vegetarian then, like a popular magazine, you have to make it exciting or funny. You have to make people want to read because what you say is entertaining. When you're writing about very serious issues you can be serious. But when you're writing about life as a vegan, make sure you include plenty of fun or love or whatever is most important to you.

Structure of your Newsletter

For some sections of your newsletter, choose a title:

Campaigns Corner

The Big Interview

A.R. Calendar

Feeding Frenzy

Quote of the Month

This gives a theme to draw people back every issue to their favourite pages. How many people buy Viz every month just because they adore a certain character? It may not be your cup of herb tea, but it's a standard way to keep the content consistently interesting while introducing new subjects.

For each article, list the points you believe are important. Use bold letters or boxes to draw the reader's attention to key points, to seduce them into reading the article now.

PRODUCTION

"Freedom of the press exists for anyone who can afford a press."

Suppose you've just been landed with the job of doing next month's newsletter. Oh cripes, what to do next? How much does it cost to produce a newsletter? What do you need? Here are some ideas:

A. lots of time
B. a word processor and printer
C. some money to pay for typesetting
D. more money to pay for illustrations
E. lots of money to pay for printing

Oh dear. This looks like it's going to be very expensive. But in fact you don't need any of the above things to produce a newsletter. The only thing you must have is imagination. We're going to tell you how to make the the most of whatever resources you have, even if you have almost NO time or NO money.

Here is a key idea. If you have a good idea, you will always find other people who want to help you. In fact if you want to do anything significant, you will normally need to work with others. That's one of the reasons for starting a groups, so that we can find people to help us build a world safe for animals, together.

Everything that now exists started as an idea. You now have an idea for a newsletter. There are some problems ahead. But you've spent your entire life solving problems. And there isn't a single problem involved in producing a newsletter that you cannot resolve. Especially now that you're part of a local group linked to the national and international animal rights community.

Whatever your situation, it has advantages and disadvantages. There is no strength without weakness, and no weakness without strength. So let's look at your situation.

A. Time

Perhaps you have four children, a job, and no time or energy. Then find ways to make some time, and find people to help you! Can you really not afford to give up one or two evenings of goggle-box watching to help change the world? And there are sure to be people in your group with heaps of free time to help you. Find out who's unemployed, who are the school and college students, and who's retired. If you work in an office, try taking a writing break instead of a coffee break. It's amazing how much you can do in half an hour, or an hour after work.

B. Finding a Word Processor

If you're unemployed you may not have much money. But you are in the perfect position to write, because you already have the one thing that most people want - TIME. So start writing now.

Do you know a vegetarian secretary or a student? Every office or college has computers which your friend could use. Almost certainly a student friend can take you into her university or college and show you how to use a word processor there.

Do you know any children? Do any of them have a computer? Can you ask them to show you the word processor? Do you have a friend who has a computer? Could you use it one or two evenings per week, or on a Sunday?

Perhaps you work where there are computers which you can use for typing during your lunch hour. Or maybe you could arrive a little early in the morning or leave late one evening per week? Even if it's too dangerous to do your own work in the office, perhaps you can use the nice printer for work that you've typed at home or in a friend's house.

Perhaps your group has enough money to buy a cheap old Amstrad computer out of the paper for under £100. This will be fine for inputting the text of articles. Later you can transfer it to a more expensive computer to turn it into the finished product. Just make sure you get a PC with a 3.5" diskette, not a PCW with 3" drives that is incompatible with everything else around these days. Or much better still try blagging an old 286 or 386 or best of all 486 computer from someone who's just upgraded to a shiny new Pentium.

C. Typesetting

Typesetting is the process of taking a document and making it look like this book, or better. However remember the phrase "The best is the enemy of the good." If your newsletter contains useful information, then start publishing it now and worry about the presentation later.

If you have a friend with a powerful computer that can do typesetting, ask about using the computer for your book. Professional typesetting is expensive. But if you can get it for nothing, then go for it. Strangely enough, most people with computers just love showing what they can do, and they can do your typesetting in the process!

The standard package for typesetting on PC's these days is Quark Xpress. But you can do some pretty impressive stuff with much cheaper software such as Microsoft Publisher or Lotus Wordpro (formerly called Amipro), or even with Microsoft Word or Wordperfect, and these will run quite happily on cheaper 386 or possibly even 286 computers. Contact any groups whose newsletters you like for their tips. They might even lend you a copy of their software to try it out.

D. Illustrations

Your newsletter will look much nicer with a few pictures. These can be very simple, and you can draw them yourself. Ask around if anyone is an artist. If you see a picture you like in an animal rights magazine, ask if you can use it. (Most people don't bother to ask, but we thought we'd better tell you anyway.)

E. Printing

Now this is the expensive part, right? Wrong! It is possible to print your newsletter without spending any money at all. After the tenth draft on a home bubblejet printer, what now?

Before we tell you how to print for nothing, let's discuss the size of your newsletter. The normal size of paper in a printer is A4 (30cm x 21cm). This is much too big for a small publication, so we suggest you use A5 (21cm x 15cm), which is half the size. Print A4 and photocopy reduce two pages together onto an A4 sheet for folding.

Now, what about free printing? Let's imagine that you've produced your Newsletter and you're ready to print. How many copies do you need? One hundred, one thousand, or maybe ten thousand? How do you eliminate the risk of printing too many? By printing only as many as you know you need. So print them using a photocopier. You will need to borrow or buy a big stapler, at least 15cm long. This is your major investment, but it will be good for years. Students can often buy photocopying cards at cheap prices to use in their library. And photocopy shops near universities can be much cheaper than in the centre of town.

Some people have photocopied at work in the evenings, especially if they work for the government and believe they should have some compensation for all the tax subsidies that go to the meat and milk industries and the hospitals full of sick meat eaters. Not to mention the fact that there's nothing they can eat in the canteen. But of course we wouldn't dream of irresponsibly and illegally telling you to do something dangerous or illegal. So don't even think of doing this. Okay?

Personally we think it's best not to print more than a few dozen mags at a time. You may pay twice as much per 'zine as if you print 100, but you eliminate the risks of spending too much too soon. After all, if you sell all 25 quickly and need to reprint, is that really a problem? One famous entrepreneur used to say "Look after the down side, and the upside will take care of itself."

As we go to press, a new development has radically reduced the cost of laser printing. Previously laser printers used to cost hundreds of pounds, and you'd get stitched up for even more for the drums and toner cartridges. And they weren't very environmentally friendly. But they were super-fast. Now Kyocera has produced the Ecosys F-600 printer for £299 which doesn't require any more money spent except a new ink cartridge every 3,000 pages. The cost of a cartridge is £30 or less, so that's about a penny a page. Unlike other printers this one doesn't need a 100 drum replacement or developer kit every few thousand pages. And it's quite fast. Alex used one to produce this book and reckons it's a major step forward for those who want a bargain printing press at home. They say it's good for about 300,000 pages.

MARKETING

Peter Cox, the author of "Why You Don't Need Meat" which has sold over 70 000 copies, said "I've never met an intelligent person who, when presented with the arguments didn't become a vegetarian."

On the other hand, Robin Webb, the British ALF Press Officer, said "American research shows that 88% of the population are only interested in their own little family grouping. You're wasting your time with them."

Listen to criticism, but don't let anyone stop you from doing what you believe in.

There are two kinds of magazine you can produce: one for the general public, and one for group members only. Here we'll talk about promoting your magazine to Joe or Joanna Public.

So just how do you sell your magazine to the people who are ready to buy it, without wasting time and money on the others? Here are some ideas for marketing without paying for advertising.

First of all, always carry some copies with you, especially when you go to anything involving animal rights or green people. Everyone will be interested in the newsletters you are carrying in your hand. Let them take one away for half an hour to read. Many of them will come back and say "This is great, I want one. How much is it?"

Send copies to the local newspaper and radio stations, especially vegetarian journalists. Ask them to review it and tell people to order from you.

Take your newsletter to local vegetarian cafes, wholefood shops, "hippy" shops, community centres and anywhere that gets a subsidy from the Council. Give them some copies on "sale or return" and a photocopy of any magazine reviews. Ask them to suggest other shops. And stick one in the Library. Amazingly enough, pet shops are also good. They're sometimes run by well-meaning "we love animals" types who'll say "Oh it's about animals, we'll take some." (Unless of course you've put an expose of the pet trade on the cover!)

How Much to Charge

Business types will tell you to charge as much as the market can support. Other people will tell you that AR stuff should be as cheap as possible. What should you do?

There is not much point in producing a local general circulation magazine if you lose money. You will need to pay for stamps and phone calls, photocopying, and later for printing and possibly advertising, but really it can't be too cheap. If you can get enough advertising to give it away, then you're really in business. There's a fantastic green, ethical and vegetarian newspaper called Satya available free in New York, paid for by a handful of advertisements. It's produced by newspaper professionals. We hope to see ethical newspapers popping up in every city in the future in this country too.

A WORD OF WARNING

Finally, and more sinisterly, if a group does not have a newsletter or magazine that frankly reports everything that's going on, then there's a real danger that one or two ambitious people could one day take over. They withhold information as a way of exerting control. They hold closed committee meetings in secret and publish only as much as the law requires to give an illusion of democracy. And they expel or refuse membership to anyone who tries to blow the whistle on them. We've seen this happen time and again in local groups and at least three national organizations. So be warned! If your Newsletter doesn't contain full details of decisions made in meetings, somebody may have something to hide.

FINAL TIPS

Keep a note book in your pocket or bag and by your bed.

Contact your friends and ask them to help.

Look in the libary for a book about journalism or sub-editing.

Find people with word processors and start typing.

Visit photocopy shops, libraries and printers.

And if you've found these notes helpful, please send us a copy of your newsletter.

 

next chapter

 

Campaign Against Cruelty An Animal Activists Handbook

available for £4.99 (plus p&p) from Vegetarian Guides, or order it from all good book shops.