Naff new name – great new(-ish) magazine

photo-4I’ve been told to expect good things from the first issue of Nature’s Home – the new name for the RSPB magazine. Mine arrived yesterday and I’ve enjoyed reading quite a lot of it already – more than I have for quite a few issues of the magazine.

I don’t like the name Nature’s Home, but we’ve done all that already; my prediction is that it will get another name change within five years, but we’ll see.

Some will mourn the uncluttered front cover of BIRDS; Nature’s Home looks more like a magazine that you might buy in a newsagent – but that doesn’t worry me much (there are so many places, these days, where we see marvellous images of wildlife).

When will we see the first cover without a bird on it, I wonder? Within the next three issues would be my guess – and I hope I’m right as it will seem a little odd if Nature’s Home always has a bird on its cover.

There are quite a few celebrities dotted around the magazine – Linda Barker,  David Lindo,  Simon King (and more depending on where you set the bar for ‘celebrity’) – but I most enjoyed the articles by Simon Barnes, Pat Thompson and Adam Marek.

Simon Barnes writes about the decline of Hen Harriers due to illegal persecution on grouse moors. It’s a good piece with which I agree.  In fact it echoes much of what I said at a meeting at the Royal Society on Monday evening about raptor persecution and the need to feel angry about environmental damage (and, I promise you, Simon and I hadn’t compared notes).  But Simon Barnes’s article does have a couple of snags; it isn’t written by the RSPB and it doesn’t say what the RSPB is doing about the issue.  To get closer to those  views one must read Pat Thompson’s article on the uplands.  Here, in a good, but rather short (considering the size of the issue) article, Pat writes ”In the long term, our uplands would be far better served by less intensive and damaging management, and in places, a shift away from the unsustainable practices associated with driven grouse shooting‘ but he also writes ‘Let’s be clear: the RSPB is not opposed to grouse shooting.’. There is talk of working together with the grouse shooting community but also that ‘shooting is poorly regulated, and self-regulation clearly isn’t working.  What we need are new laws that make the industry accountable for its actions.’.  It’s all a little bit cryptic but at least it’s being discussed in the RSPB magazine.  Hen Harrier persecution even gets a mention in the Chief Executive’s column where he says that we will read about the RSPB vision for the uplands in Pat’s piece – well, we don’t really.

At the RSPB AGM last Saturday Martin Harper said, in answer to a question, that the RSPB is in favour of vicarious liability for wildlife crimes, but the RSPB did not put any real effort into supporting the epetition on this subject last year, nor the current epetition on licensing of grouse moors.  Vicarious liability was adopted by the Scottish government partly on the basis of RSPB lobbying (and partly because they were at the time a sensible bunch of politicians) but the RSPB has been relying on internal advocacy to the Law Commission to get vicarious liability in England, and the interim Law Commission report (published this week) rules it out and instead goes for a softer option.  So what will the RSPB do now – and what does it look as though it has done?

What it has done, I believe, is create a vacuum into which others will step.  The RSPB is in danger of being side-lined on an issue that it should ‘own’.

But back to the excellent magazine.  Adam Marek’s interview with Graham Hirons is interesting and personal.  I remember visiting Graham in hospital after the road accident about which he talks in the magazine and wondering whether he would be able to resume work. But he did and his legacy includes some fantastic wetland sites as described in the magazine (but much more as well).  I thought that this was an excellent article – about a person who is a talented conservationist (and a friend of mine)  – which revealed some of the  details behind the headlines of nature conservation.

The new-style magazine looks cleaner and smarter.  It is easier to tell what is an advert and what isn’t.  Even the adverts look a little more interesting – maybe I’m just ageing into the category at which they are aimed! Even though the cover lacks as striking a photograph as in the past (though I like Turnstones very much) the ‘Photo of the issue’ really is the photo of this issue and is on pages 19-20 and is not of a bird.

There are a few things that still need doing to bring the magazine fully up to date.  Why not get rid of the book reviews? To review Feral in October in 32 words when it was out in May seems a little off the pace and the excellent Birds and People (published in July) gets a massive 69 words.  These snippets don’t do justice to the books nor their potential readers (though my publisher may strangle me for writing this!).

The current design does nothing for the Chief Executive column at the front (page 7). Mike Clarke’s photo looks as though he is trying to walk away from the page and the landscape photo used here is too small to make an impact. This piece is no longer the RSPB talking to government about what it should do and it isn’t clear what is its function these days. It’s a page which, arguably, has less visual impact than any other in the magazine – that’s not a nice thing to do to your Chief Executive!

The new magazine looks good. I like it (but I still prefer that of Butterfly Conservation).




24 Replies to “Naff new name – great new(-ish) magazine”

  1. Not sure I agree with your suggestion that book reviews should go. It is nice for readers to have some indication as to what new books are available and many won’t have their fingers on the pulse of the conservation world as you do, or even get mailing lists from NHBS or whoever. Admittedly a sentence or two does not, as you say, do justice to any book but I’d still think quite a few readers will find it of interest to have books brought to their attention that they might otherwise have missed.
    Butterfly Conservation’s magazine, incidentally, also includes short book reviews (admittedly none quite as short as 32 words!).
    Maybe the answer is to have one main review of decent length and a list of other recent publications with just a word or two to say what they are?

    1. Jonathan – maybe. There are four books reviewed in Nature’s Home on less than half a page. How many wildlife books are published each year? This is the RSPB’s take on a quarter of the year… Why not do decent reviews of lots of books on the RSPB website instead – the RSPB has plenty of staff who could give very informed reviews of most wildlife books that are published?

  2. I’d like to see more calls to arms and more tough-talking. Start with the CEO’s page, say it how it is and get us thinking and keen to do something. I agree it should be about what RSPB thinks and is doing. It doesn’t have to sell the magazine on bookshelves, it has a massive readership already there, it should take more advantage of it.

    1. Well said Kate, I’m less interested in an organisations new magazine, and more interested in what they do regards actual groundwork. Too many organisations are using up valuable time and resources on products and membership problems and ideas, maybe this has become a necessity to a certain extend, but it’s not the reason I send them money every month. I sometimes feel that i should keep the money and use it on smaller unknown conservation project, where the only thing I recieve for the money, is to see the Natural World protected and encouraged. Thats all I care about.

  3. My copy arrived on Monday. I flicked through it for 10-15 mins and it still seems to be the same magazine that I find rather bland. Simon Barnes piece was ok, but tucked out of the way on p47, should it not be been on p7 ? The article on plastic waste was ok, as was the feature on Graham Hiron, although more detail would have been nice. Mike Clarke still doesn’t really say anything. I suppose the ‘highlight’ for me was the superb picture of the otters on p54.

    Perhaps it’s an age thing, but for me this just feels like an old folks magazine, Saga meets Springwatch. In amongst the adverts for optics and high carbon holidays, I half expected to see for an advert for elasticated waist trousers and incontinance pants.

    To save on paper waste, I’ll ask the RSPB to stop sending me a copy. They can email me an e-magazine if they wish….Bah Humbug !

    1. Ernest – well I thought it had changed a fair amount, and for the better. I may be older than you – it is difficult to tell…

  4. Can’t be aimed at the old fogeys like me, ‘cos I struggle to read the new smaller typeface even with my new varifocals.

  5. Have you seen the old RSPB BIRDS magazine called Nature’s Home.
    Take a look at page 10 and repeat after me:

    “Av oo seen dis ickle birdy? … its called the Bright Greeny Bird”

    Should have called it ‘Nature for Dummies’ – RSPN indeed!

  6. Well I would not care about rspb going into all types of nature seriously as opposed to doing it previously without shouting about it if they had put any effort whatsoever into helping the Hen Harriers in this country.It is really a disgrace to do all this nature thing to get more members while ignoring the plight of H Hs.
    Talk about sticking there heads in the sand.

    1. Dennis – I know you feel strongly about Hen Harriers. And so do I. Why is it such abig issue for you, please? I’m just interested because you clearly do feel strongly about it.

  7. Isn’t it interesting how different people see things differently? Mark thinks that the new magazine “looks cleaner and smarter. It is easier to tell what is an advert and what isn’t.” My view, on the other hand, is that it looks scruffier and more cluttered, with lots of the smaller articles looking just like the advertisements!

    In layout, “Nature’s Home” now looks almost identical to the WWT’s “waterlife”, whose latest edition also arrived this week. I much prefer the simpler layout of BTO News, or the Woodland Trust’s “Broadleaf”, for instance. The content of “Nature’s Home” doesn’t seem to differ much from “Birds”.

    But it doesn’t matter to the rspb whether I like “Nature’s Home” or not. I’m not going to stop being a Life Fellow of the society, and my donations and legacy depend on what they do on the ground (and in influencing policy), not what their magazine looks like. We (and they) need to hear from those whose commitment is more marginal, and whose decision to join is improved by the style of the magazine.

    1. David – I agree that is interesting. Almost as interesting as a Henslow’s Sparrow. Thank you.

  8. I guess on some level, we’re all giving Nature a home. There’s approximately 7 billion of us on this planet, which is an awful lot of habitat. We each have our own Resident Symbiotic and Parasitic Biota. Can’t wait for the next ‘Photo of the issue’…

  9. Graeme, have you viewed the latest estimates of the rate of species loss. All that habitat and all that decline in bio-diversity? I am a Simon Barnes fan. He tells it like it is which is why he may be down on p47. He previously called for “Joined Up Thinking” he must despair reading these pages with all the talking down to toffs, ministers of state, MPs, plebs and anybody else with disenting POVs that similarly despair at the ongoing “mutterings amongst ourselves” whilst 79% of children remain disconnected. Please, please, please stop the jousting, reread the “Whats in a Name” blog of just over a year ago and do something to stop this ship from sinking!

    1. Reeta, please don’t mistake my tongue-in-cheek comments as either not caring or not engaging. For a long while now, the only bit of the magazine I have considered worth reading is Simon Barnes’ column. Top bloke.

      Whether I am doing enough to stop the ship from sinking is indeed for others to judge. However, there is a bit more to it than throw away comments on Mark’s blog.

      1. If Simon Barnes were to start a blog perhaps we could all rally behind that without the ambiguity, antagonism and resultant ineffectiveness. The situation requires everybody connected to work together to put nature on the radar of the disconnected. As it stands there are influential groups (eg new ministers of state and farmers leaders) who I should imagine are completely unimpressed by the quality of comment on these pages and the consequential lack of pressure of public opinion.

        1. Reeta, Having posted a comment with very similar sentiments a while back, I couldn’t agree more that a champion for Nature would act as a much-needed focus of effort.

  10. Well think I find it hard to define why I feel so strongly about Hen Harriers but here goes.
    We always see them on Mull when we visit and the male is a particularly lovely bird,after that the fact they are seriously persecuted,really rare,Chrissie did not get the backing her effort deserved with petition and finally the feeble stance from senior rspb figures have in a way logical or not made me feel more strongly.
    Does not sound scientific and how I wish the rspb in some way by doing more for them had perhaps softened my feeling.
    They do not seem to understand that they are in reality the only people with any serious influence and they seem more interested in lots of other things.
    Oh another obvious reason is that I am no twitcher but enjoy seeing different birds and we all should be seeing Hen Harriers without too much trouble in England whereas we are extremely lucky if anyone happens to see one passing through.

  11. Well magazine finally arrived today,no problem there but how weird it is left to Simon Barnes to say about persecution of raptors on Grouse moors,nothing from rspb bigwigs of any significance.Seems as Simon suggests a Royal charter means rspb is pledged not to oppose shooting.
    This seems to be a farce surely plenty of charities work really well without restrictions put on them by it seems a royal charter,if so lets change the name and ditch the royal charter giving rspb chance to do what members want.
    It seems to me the royal charter is a sop to allow members of royal family to look OK while shooting.

  12. Mark, I missed your review of George Monbiot’s book, Feral, back in July…but your mention of it in this blog prompted me to go back to it. I agree with you that rewilding is a way to do nature conservation rather than the way, but I disagree that he doesn’t say how it could be done.

    OK so he doesn’t have an answer for the lowlands or for the (minority?) of the uplands used for grouse, but he does point out that, if the conditions on the Single Farm Payment were altered, so that farmers didn’t have to continue to graze the uplands, they could choose to keep their subsidy money whilst allowing the hills to revegetate. As upland sheep loose so much money, their profits would be much improved. The farmers who wish to continue to graze for cultural reasons would still be able to spend their money on sheep….so all would be happy(ish).

    Admittedly we’d then have a slightly odd upland ecosystem without the larger mammals, but it’d be better than the very odd ecosystem we have at the moment which lacks a hell of a lot more than that. Who knows, if we managed to build enthusiasm for this new wild land, maybe we’d then have the public support for a few mammal reintroductions.

  13. I did hope that the recent review might lead to the abandonment of the Royal Charter. I cannot see what the advantage is in keeping it. At least then the Society could get stuck in without restriction.

    Thinking about it a bit more The Royal Charter only restricts RSPB from being critical of shooting. I can only assume that is shooting within the law. Surely The Royal Charter cannot restrict criticism of “ILLEGAL” behaviour by the shooting fraternity?

  14. I cast my mind back to the first time that I saw a copy of the RSPB magazine (was it called Birds then?) more than 30 years ago on Dunwich Beach. This was when I had only a passing interest in bird watching. I found the contents to be exciting and stimulating as well as very informative and joined the RSPB on the spot.

    Being older, more cynical and possibly better informed about birding I could now find the magazine a trifle wearisome, but if I try to look at it with the eyes and knowledge that I had all those years ago I reckon that I would find it to be at least as exciting now, probably more so.

    I dislike the new name intensely and am yet to be convinced about the present stance of the RSPB, particularly about the lack of proper consultation with members, but the contents of this edition look very good. Now lets’ have some more up-front campaigning to go with it.

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