Psychic News The last Issue by Roy Stemman – 21st July 2010
As predicted in my two previous posts, Psychic News has published its final issue. The online version became available earlier today and the printed papers will reach newsagents or fall through the letterboxes of its subscribers for the very last time in a day or two.
The final issue is an astonishing piece of journalism, packed with tributes from former editorial staff, contributors and readers, as well as a very moving front-page statement from its last editor, Sue Farrow, who says she writes it “with a heart so heavy with sadness that I have no words to describe it”.
Sue also reveals that “for the first time in its proud 78-year history of editorial independence Psychic News has been subjected to censorship.” She explains that immediately after the Spiritualists’ National Union’s AGM in Blackpool she received an e-mail “informing me that everything printed in this, the last ever issue, was to be submitted” for approval.
That said, its columns show little sign of the editor or contributors being muzzled.
Tony Ortzen, a former editor, suggests that observing these events from the next world the newspaper’s founder, Maurice Barbanell, and those associated with it from the start, “will be beside themselves with anguish and despair that a once proud Spiritualist newspaper has been consigned to the scrapheap of publishing history”.
Physical medium Stewart Alexander laments the fact that “at a stroke, the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) have done what the movement’s critics have been unable to achieve for over 80 years. They have silenced the only informed, unifying, independent ‘voice of Spiritualism’.”
Psychic News contributor Graham Jennings said, “This is truly terrible news, surely the worst in the history of Spiritualism.” Two other contributors, Lis and Jim Warwood, declared: “The closure of Psychic News is a tragedy, the enormity of which is almost beyond words.”
There are many more, in a similar vein, praising the efforts of the editor and her team, questioning the judgment and motives of the SNU in closing it down, and expressing the hope that it could somehow arise phoenix-like and continue in some form.
The most powerful criticism of the SNU came from Geoff Griffiths who attended its AGM and summed up “the sorry spectacle” of its assassination of Psychic News in a three-letter word: MAD! After suggesting what actions they should have taken, instead of closing it, Griffiths asserts: “They have made a huge mistake”.
During my eight years of working with Barbanell, we were never allowed to write that someone had died. People never died in Psychic News, they either passed on or – better still – were promoted (though I felt one or two may have experienced a demotion).
Unfortunately, promotion is not a word we can use to describe the death of Psychic News.
Astonishingly, Maurice Barbanell (right) edited the newspaper right up to the end of his life, at the age of 79, in 1981. Which means he outlived his creation by one year. The difference, of course, is that whereas Barbanell passed after a short illness, Psychic News’ death is premature and far from natural.
The SNU has snatched away its life support, while the patient was alive and kicking, and without seeking the help of specialists who could help it get back on its feet. In other words, it has been murdered.