Editorial: What’s a magazine for?
What is a magazine for? There’s the fly-swatting side of things, of course, and the all-important pictures for children to cut out and stick to other pieces of paper in Sunday school. But I think there’s more. For one thing, a magazine is a badge of personal identity. You can guess how well a woman who subscribes to New Statesman, Private Eye and Sight & Sound will hit it off with a date who buys Handgunner, Hustler and Tea-Break Puzzles.
You’re not just buying information and/or entertainment in the corner shop, but group membership. For better or worse. That’s why there are mags we brandish publicly, others we just read, and some we tend to keep out of view. Once, in Tesco on the Old Kent Road, I picked up Q magazine and found Gay Times hidden inside it. There’s a little biography right there.
What about the magazine that you (I’m guessing) hold in your hand right now? It may be extremely familiar to you, having been around since 1972. In which case it has probably just become slightly less familiar, as it’s trying out a new look and is, I sense, rather pleased with it. All of us at Reform Towers have put a lot of work into it, and while I suspect you won’t be as excited about it as we are, we hope you like it. If you don’t (and even if you do), you know the address to write to.
To add to that unfamiliarity, there is a coming and a going this month. Alison Micklem writes her last column, having reported on church-related community work from Liverpool since 2011. We’re grateful and hope to maintain the practical focus that the column brought to Reform. And we bring you the first column by Simon Jenkins, the editor of the celebrated shipoffools.com, called “Jumble sales of the apocalypse”. If that title doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the column, go and read it (page 38).
Alternatively, the magazine may be completely new to you. If so, welcome, come in, make yourself at home. You’ll probably work this out, but, just in case, Reform is not the organ of a group of Anglican misogynists who go by the same name. It was our name first, and, confusing as it might be, we’re sticking with it. (It could be worse. The first magazine ever was called Edifying Monthly Discussions. I’ve come across one called Edible Jersey.)
Reform is published by the United Reformed Church, and has readers and contributors of all denominations and none. It aims to embody the values of that church, not least in being a meeting place for people of widely differing perspectives to learn from each other. We want to be a magazine of practical, progressive Christianity, equipping believers for living in today’s world.
Where magazines differ from books is that they rarely exist for their own sake. From Radio Times to Waterways World and from Defence Helicopter to Surf Europe, the magazine isn’t the main attraction; it points to something else and helps us to do it better, understand it better, appreciate it better. What is this magazine for? For helping Christianity to happen where you are. That’s the hope, anyway.
This article was published in the July/August 2013 edition of Reform.