For many years I subscribed to the Spectator. It presented a idiosyncratic view of Britain – more Whiggish than Tory, it seemed to me – but almost always fun to read. I had in a previous life subscribed to New Statesman which arrived by sea mail 6 or 8 weeks after publication. It showed a different and perhaps more seriously worthy slice of Britain. I would not say it was fun to read but then I was a bit less interested in fun than in discovering the world.
I have recently let my subscription to the Spectator expire. The reason was simply that the 6 pages tacked on the front with what was claimed to be Australian content annoyed the heck out of me. For the first year or so it was edited by Oscar Humphries who lived in London. The content was mostly stuff from expatriates or from Australian writers who we had mostly already read in the daily papers. Not quite the same articles but there was a warmed over feel to it.
I wrote a couple of letters expressing my dissatisfaction. In one I pointed out that the magazine was British – well English really – and I was sure that was why people here bought it. Can you imagine, I asked, New Yorker or Atlantic tacking on a bit of English content and claiming it was a local publication? No reply was received.
Recently Tom Switzer has taken over as editor. At least he lives here and does not need to rely on a few old mates for contributions. But still, why do we need it and what does it do to the distinct character of the magazine?
I don’t know how much the Australian circulation has increased. There seems to be quite a few free copies about, which is the usual way new magazines are launched. So far as I can see – I did buy off the news stand the Bumper Double Christmas issue – there is no Australian advertising, which must be a disappointment to them all.
My guess is that Spectator Australia will not survive. Will I return? Probably not. I can get as much of Britain that I want from the online publications.