Saturday, August 06, 2011

POLL: Masonic Grand Lodge Magazine Content

Some interesting results from an online poll asking about the content of a state's grand lodge magazine. I won't post the state as it is not meant as a criticism of the current content or job that the editors are doing. But I think the results are worth noting for any grand lodge publication and what members would find most useful, informative or interesting.

If grand lodges are spending lots of money and editors lots of time creating these publications, it costs just as much and takes just as much time to put out a product members will actually read as one they'll toss after the walk in from the mailbox.

This also comes with the codicil that an editor can only print what is sent to him, and that if members are unhappy with the content of their grand lodge magazines, then start typing.

Answers are listed in descending order of votes cast, not in the order they were originally asked. Respondents could only vote for one answer in each question. 58 votes were cast.


1. What would you like to see MORE of in the Grand Lodge Magazine?

Ritual and symbolism education [34.48%]
How-to articles (lodge management,
building issues, membership retention) [27.59%]
Masonic history [13.79%]
Photos and notices of lodge activities [6.90%]
National and international Masonic news [6.90%]
Masonic book reviews [6.90%]
Interviews with grand officers [3.45%]
Charity news [0.00%]
Spiritual inspiration [0.00%]
Masonic Home stories [0.00%]


2. What would you like to see LESS of in the Grand lodge Magazine?
Interviews with grand officers [24.14%]
Photos and notices of lodge activities [20.69%]
Spiritual inspiration [17.24%]
National and international Masonic news [13.79%]
Masonic Home stories [13.79%]
Charity news [6.90%]
How-to articles (lodge management,
building issues, membership retention) [3.45%]

Ritual and symbolism education [0.00%]
Masonic history [0.00%]
Masonic book reviews [0.00%]

13 comments:

Seamus Stimpson said...

someone Forward this to my GM or someone in the Grand Lodge of PA.

I've mentioned this, but I think that they think it's just me.
-Bro. Stimpson

Chris Hodapp said...

That's why I posted it. ;)

Brother Kevin Miller said...

I have only been a Mason for 2 Years (come (March AL 6012), but feel so strongly about the need of the fraternity to learn more about its history and its craft than about superficial mundane chatter. The strength of the fraternity lies within the continuing education of the brethern.

Bro K. Miller
Brockton MA

Quimbisero said...

Yes, GL publications are slick and totally devoid of interesting content.

Eoghan

Chris Hodapp said...

Any group's "house organ" publication has certain duties to perform that aren't always very interesting: reporting on membership and finances, introduction of its executives, thanks to donors and happy helpers, explanation of rules and procedures, etc. It's not often the stuff of riveting reading. There is also within some grand lodges an attitude that history, research, symbolism and esoteric effluvia is not of interest to the bulk of members. (I do want to know what common meeting at least six people I know personally attended, who have all used the exact same phrase to me in the last year, "Masons interested in research represent such a small sliver of the fraternity..." Who faxed that talking point around?)

Brent Morris at the Scottish Rite Journal strikes a very good balance between reporting on the business side and providing thought-provoking articles. Simon LaPlace in Connecticut does a terrific job. The California Freemason does a decent job on a pretty regular basis (although am I the only guy out there who doesn't like its revamped design? And I'm not wild about Freemasonry Today's new look, either.) But the bulk of grand lodges fill their publications with GAG (grip and grin) photos, donor lists, official announcements, etc., often times with little room left for even the occasional contemplative or historical article.

That said, I have heard more than one editor say, "Write it and I'll print it." Few magazine editors find themselves in a position of having too much to print in any given issue.

I know that research lodges are usually the domain for detailed historical types of articles, but every lodge has membership/retention problems, building issues, or struggles to fight dull meeting syndrome. Every lodge would benefit from how-to articles on staging a festive board or table lodge, conducting an insurance inventory survey, preserving their local historical records, installing a checkered floor, alarm purchase dos and dont's, conducting cornerstone or funeral services with the best presentation, open house success stories and mistakes, etc. And every state would benefit from the occasional recap of how Masonry started and grew there, the tavern or cabin of its first grand lodge meeting, a famous PGM Civil War hero, how the GL weathered the anti-Masonic period, etc. And if you have the notion of changing legislation, what better place to furtively make your case than in an historical article pointing out when and why a less than perfect rule was first enacted, in a magazine that goes to everyone in your state?

Having said all of that, please be sure to submit your best stuff to me at the Journal of the Masonic Society first...

Ralph Clinton Thayer III said...

Interesting. Thanks.

Seamus Stimpson said...

haha, thank you, Brother Hodapp. Thank you and god bless you.

Tom Accuosti said...

Conn once had an 8 page glossy publication that came out quarterly. Finances compelled us to go to 3 times a year, but eventually the associated costs were just too much.

We ended up switching over to a 32 page "newspaper" style publication which goes out 10 - 11 times a year. It's much more current, has room for reporting several items from each district, items of interest from around the US, a reprint of a blog post, and we can still fit messages from the GL officers.

IT took a little while to find a good mix, and Simon sometimes doesn't get enough credit for the work that he's put into it.

Chris Hodapp said...

Tom, Simon absolutely does an excellent job, and especially considering he pumps this out monthly instead of quarterly.

Tom Accuosti said...

I just realized that I misspoke: the old publication was 16 pages, not 8.

Simon has some great help, but he's almost too modest to mention that he does most of the photography for the cover shots. And every year, he does a take on an old Beatles album, usually featuring the GL officers.

Dr. Faro said...

Thanks for your kind words about the Scottish Rite Journal. I spent the first 25 years of my professional life as a mathematician, and I always knew if my algorithms were right or wrong. I succeed in my "encore career" if I have good taste - and there's no algorithm for that!

My personal taste leans towards fact-based, fully-referenced research papers (think AQC or Heredom). However, as editor of a general interest Masonic publication (like GL publications), I have to keep my broader audience in mind.

The SR Journal has a about 205,000, subscribers making it the largest circulation Masonic magazine in the world. (UGLE's Freemasonry Today isn't sent to overseas members, or it would be the largest.) Twenty-five percent of my readers are over age 79 - unlikely to be very active in their Valleys, but more likely to leave a bequest. Some love patriotic articles, others esoteric symbolism, and still others straight history. A readers' survey several years ago showed that book reviews were the single most popular item. I try to avoid GAG photos, but sometimes that's all that comes in.

Here's one of my gold standards: is the story so good that you would tell your non-Masonic friends about it? A couple of recent stories like that include:

- the Masonic ring that was swallowed by a northern Pike (no doubt names "Albert") and returned to its owner 50 years later;

- Richard Potter of African No. 459 who was such a famous magician that Potter Place, NH, is named after him;

- Walter Wilcox the 6-year-old orphan of a Mason who was sent from New Orleans to Sacramento via Chicago with only a luggage tag attached to his jacket identifying him as a Masonic orphan.

As long as you and I and Simon and the many other Masonic editors can continue to publish good stories, then our jobs are reasonably secure.

Keep up the good work and keep the faith!

Brent

Simon LaPlace said...

A Grand Lodge put out a survey and only got 58 respondents? Yikes!

With those numbers I would conclude several thousand members either don't go their their Grand Lodge website, or several thousand don't care.

Chris Hodapp said...

No, it was actually a private survey with a limited audience.