Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Paper Tigers

Harold Drasdo: Don't look for him on Twitter.

The Climbers Club has joined a growing number of organizations and media outlets who have decided to abandon the practice of publishing a paper journal * and concentrate the dissemination of club news and articles in a digital format. Thus ending a hundred year tradition of the club newsletter. Club journals and newsletters have always been a source for some of the finest  mountain writing available. Even after the commercial climbing magazines entered the equation and began to attract the club writer and the non aligned wordsmith to its ranks. These journals and newsletters still carried brilliant essays and articles which were created and submitted for pleasure rather than for reward.

It’s sad in a way to see the traditional publication go like this as quite simply, there are still people out there, including climbing writers, who have never joined the world wide web revolution. If they are members of a club like the CC or the Fell & Rock and they do not use the facilities or attend functions, the newsletter and journal is their only connection to the club. Without that I can’t see a point in the old guard remaining members if their only point of reference is to see a fifty quid standing order go through their bank account every year.

Of course you’ll be reading this on a laptop, tablet, phone or whatever so it must seem inconceivable that there are still people out there who are not on the internet but there are more than you think. Take Harold Dradso and David Craig for example. Two of our finest outdoor writers but neither have ever embraced the digital revolution. Harold at least uses a word processor but David still plonks away on a typewriter and sends you lovely handwritten letters which can take days to decipher but which are always fascinating and amusing. Certain individuals would  describe the pair as ‘dinosaurs’ which is used very much in the pejorative sense. It’s seen as somehow unnecessarily Luddite and perverse to remain detached from the digital world that we live in. For myself, I see a great nobility and integrity in these refuseniks. An ever diminishing band of writers who communicate by telephone and letter. Who bash away on an old Remington typewriter and produce manuscripts peppered with tippex stains and pen annotations.

I saw an article by Cameron McNeish recently. Cameron of course is an experienced journalist and presenter who has edited Climber and TGO. It was very much in same vein as this piece in that he saw a bleak future for paper publications with their ever diminishing readership, and sees the future in digital media. Incidentally Cameron highlighted Footless Crow as one of the new generation of online blogazines which have changed the outdoor media landscape, which was very nice of him to say but which makes me feel a sense of guilt nevertheless.

Like a cyber tsunami, the digital wave appears all consuming; inevitably submerging the traditional paper publication, but in the mean time; Here’s to the diminishing but stubbon band of analogue rebels. Here’s to typewriters and carbon paper,ink and daisy printers. Here’s to tippex ,ribbon and coffee stained, scribbled upon, creased and dog eared magazines. As the song don't know what you've lost till its gone.

* Note Rob Stone's correction below. Whilst no longer publishing paper newsetters,the CC will happily still be publishing its renowned and historic journal in traditional book form.


  1. Hi John

    you state that the paper CC Journal is no more. This is incorrect, it is only the newsletter that is being dropped. Has the newsletter been going for 100 years ?

    Whilst not central to your piece I guess it's the spur and should be correct.

  2. The CC Journal continues, but it has been ruined. It has a non-book shape, sans-serif font, and magazine layout. It looks like a brochure for an 'adventure' holiday.

  3. The CC Journal continues – but only after a fashion. It has an ugly squarish non-book shape, uses a sans-serif font, and a magazine layout. It looks like a brochure for an 'adventure' holiday. It's a mess.