The Victorian Humanist, as a printed newsletter, is one example of a long-established means of communicating news of past and future events. This method expanded in the mid-1800s, the result of more efficient printing and paper-making. Easy distribution was aided by the spread of railways and cheap and frequent postal delivery services.
Nowadays the preferred means of distributing news and notice of events is via E-mail. This has left only one other state Humanist Society, HSNSW, producing a regular printed newsletter. All the others have switched to E-mails and webpages to keep members connected.
The rapid expansion of online publications has taken several forms. Many are just copies of existing print publication, but the more interesting ones are either something brand new, like The Conversation, or reformatted alternates of a previously printed publication.
An example of the last is The Freethinker, a UK publication that began in 1881. In 2014, however, the print version ceased, allowing production to focus exclusively on an online version. A number of reasons were given for this shift. Younger freethinkers preferred to get information online rather than take out a subscription for a printed copy. As a non-profitable publication The Freethinker relied on donations and legacies to maintain publication, and these had been falling in recent years. In addition, the National Secular Society, a kindred organisation, was no longer promoting The Freethinker to its members, having set up their own interactive website.
A key issue for all organisations, concerned about their ongoing viability, is how to attract and retain active younger members. And if young people access information and get connected via the internet, then any organisation that wants to flourish needs to meet this expectation. While the HSV committee has been inviting members to cancel their posted VH and instead receive it by email, only around 20 per cent of members have taken up this option.
So one of the projects the committee will be working on in 2016 is how to balance the expectations of the existing membership while attracting more young people into active involvement with the Humanists. The HSV website has already been updated and a further step could be a regular internet bulletin that carries Humanist commentary on topical issues.
HSV urgently needs volunteers to help with internet methods of keeping connected. Please contact a committee member if you can put a few hours into some voluntary work.