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10-07-2012, 13:23
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99% of the articles I write are destined to be published in Pubpaper, a local weekly pub and beer magazine which is distributed widely across the pubs of Calderdale and the Calder Valley area. *For nearly 2 years my 800 words a week have been appearing just after the “CalderAle” beer guide to what pubs are stocking this week. *The column is what drove me originally to write about beer, and at the start I wrote for the local audience with the blog aspect being treated simply as an online repository.
Before this column I wrote beer walks for my local CAMRA magazine “Caldercask” for a year and continued until last summer when I felt that without repetition or overly convoluted routes I could go any further. *The Pubpaper column came about when I wrote a piece of the history re-opening of my local pub and tried unsuccessfully to get it published in my local newspaper, the Halifax Courier, although it was mistaken for “the best press release I’ve ever read” initially by a feature editor, before explaining it was actually copy. *I then split this into two and got it published in my now home publication.
As I got more involved with the beer community on twitter, my point of view changed and I actively wrote for both audiences, looking at the bigger picture, covering more national news / issues and responding to it. *However a balance still had to be found, the articles dealing with local issues and news had to have some wider geographical context, and although a lot of issues I’ve written about can drive both the local and national context simultaneously, examples being CAMRA, beer tax, and opinion pieces generally, there are times where you have to make a conscious effort to physically ground a more general article to give the local printed reader a mental link to it.
I’m the first to admit that some of my attempts to bridge this gap when needed have been better than others, with some being damn right tenuous and I am the first to admit when I’m not 100% happy with a piece, but the weekly publishing schedule and other family and personal commitments sometimes force a piece to go out in a less than ideal state. *It it only after printing sometimes when I read it back when I think this could have been worded better or my phrasing was a bit of a mouthful. *But unlike electronic publishing, print does not allow you to correct mistakes.
I’m lucky enough to have a very good editor Stuart Lomax who makes his living from running this magazine. *In nearly 80,000 words he has only seen fit to intervene once, and even then he kept the original text with an editors clarification inline. In this case I criticised a pubs range of beer when there was extenuating circumstances for this rundown. *Apart from that his input to my column has been restricted to adding “Ed” notes and additional information where relevant.
In payment I get the occasional crate of beer, our periodical lunch paid for and free advertising space for events I get involved in. *I would be writing anyway, so getting something back is good, even if I don’t make a living off it, something I ultimately aspire to. *But on weeks where I feel uninspired it forces me to work through it and get my 800 words out. *It does help that 1200 copies a week of the magazine are distributed to local pubs when trying to get access to people in my local area for interviews.
I’m known in enough pubs for the writing now to get the occasional story offered and for many to be interested when I want to run a piece in conjunction with them, would this happen if it was online only, probably to a lesser extent, but the local print element does help persuade them to deal with me when they know they will see their help appear in printed form in the pub the following week.
The next stage of being paid properly to write is hampered by both the medium I embrace via this blog and its surflet of very good online writers, but what does not help is the large cutbacks at most regional and local newspapers, meaning a lot of writing that was outsourced is now in house. *Within the beer writing sphere there is a relatively small number of “go to” beer writers which most publications seem to use and they are deservedly in that position.
I remember the first time I saw my writing in print, I was pleased as punch, but I feel the first paid piece may be a while off yet.

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