Venue staff raise two fingers to bosses who closed them down

By Joanna Houseman

THE remaining staff of a former Bristol listings magazine left an extremely eloquent and extremely rude farewell message on their website when closed down by Local World at the end of November.

The message criticised the company’s corporate culture and lack of commitment to the area, saying it was “to localism what urinal cake is to mountain freshness”.

Venue, the listings magazine for Bristol and Bath founded in 1982, was bought by Northcliffe’s Bristol Evening Post in 2000. Citing failing sales and ad revenue, the parent company closed the magazine last year.

The website, www.venue.co.uk, was retained as the Bristol Post’s online what’s on service.

The Post’s new owners, Local World, however, decided to pull the plug. Post staff will now be producing listings for a new what’s on website.

The last two freelances producing the Venue website circulated their letter beforehand to former staff and contributors to the website and magazine. More than 50 people signed it, including most of the magazine’s past editors.

The letter says that over its 31 years Venue’s personnel took great pride in their work but that its journalistic values had been whittled away by “a thousand cuts and a colourful assortment of full-frontal stabbings.”

“The two remaining of our number,” it continues, “working part-time on alternate weeks, would be the first to admit that Venue is a husk of its former self. Frankly, they’ll be glad to be put out of their misery. Where once they were part of a vast team of journalists delivering informed, first-hand comment from every last facet of city life, today our hapless duo struggle to do much more than pass on received opinion and rehash press releases.”

The open letter to Local World was the very last item to be posted to the Venue website. It was up for about an hour before Local World managers closed down the entire site and escorted Julian Owen, who wrote and posted the missive, from the building.

News of the letter quickly spread across the internet, particularly via Twitter. News was even retweeted by Bristol’s elected Mayor, George Ferguson.

@GeorgeFergusonx tweeted: “Thanks and respect to all those great people who’ve worked on or for #Bristol #Venue magazine over its 30+ year life.”

The story also made a number of websites including BuzzFeed and The Guardian. Speaking to independent Bristol news website bristol247.com, local new media businessman Dougal Templeton, who co-founded Venue in 1982, regretted LW’s move.

“Having taken over the stewardship of a highly regarded, invaluable and profitable organisation, it is distressing to see Venue has finally been driven into the ground, sacrificed on the altar of boosting the [Bristol] Post’s flagging paper sales.

“It’s a sad day for Bristol and for the many fine journalists and contributors who worked for Venue.

“The one positive outcome from Venue’s closure will be the opportunity for something else to take its place. Local World will come to regret their regressive decision.”

The full text of the letter is available on Julian Owen’s blog at: http://tellingfrombirdstoll.tumblr.com/post/68446436005/venue-the-last-post

It’s also featured in this Guardian article:

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/nov/29/local-world-venue-website-bristol

and at Bristol 247:

http://www.bristol247.com/2013/11/29/what-future-for-local-journalism-with-final-death-of-venue-90594/

 

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