The view from the political pulpit

Adrian West with a letter to the editor.

You may consider that you do not have to make any apologies for your continuing promotion of 'the whiff of revolution' in all of its guises (Jon Sutton on Professor Stephen Reicher's Keynote, The Psychologist, September 2020) and you may respond with your usual platitudes about balance and the wishes of the current readership for the content of The Psychologist. However, I am not alone in thinking that you do need to make apologies to the families and colleagues of those individuals whose obituaries you have reduced to thumbnail portraits and directions to a website rather than acknowledging in print their lives and contributions to a science and a profession in all its guises that may just matter more than the view from your political pulpit.

As more people throw The Psychologist in the bin without removing the wrapping, it must be time for the BPS Executive to review your purpose and position as editor in the hope that a new direction can be found that is more relevant to the readership than the promotion of your political alliances.

Adrian G West

Forensic and Clinical Psychologist

Editor's reply: Omitting obituaries from the print edition is probably the hardest thing I have to do as editor, and I do indeed regularly apologise to the families and colleagues involved. Most understand that the volume of obituaries we are receiving, alongside all kinds of other material, means that difficult decisions have to be made as part of an integrated print and online offering. I encourage everyone to seek out the tributes to Jack Ingham, Bram Oppenheim and Sheila Youngson which got the thumbnail treatment in the September edition.

The way the magazine is printed means we go up in 8 page sections, so it's not as simple as just adding in another page or two of obituaries. We have to consider cost, and what makes sense in terms of a print reading experience.

Of course, we could bump other content out, and this is probably where we get to the nub of it. Your other comments, along with the timing of your complaint after the September edition – following similar correspondence with you after March – suggest this is as much about what is included in the magazine as what is not. As I wrote in the editorial, I simply cannot see the inclusion of the work and views of BAME psychologists, and discussion of issues around racism and inclusion more broadly, as being about 'political alliances'. 

Again I've written about this before, but although it's my name over the door as editor I'm not plucking the direction of the magazine from thin air. All that we do is informed by reader feedback, by the Society's recent work on the member journey, and by the Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee. It would be great to have some better stats on how many members are throwing the magazine in the bin without removing the wrapping, but I hope people will understand that kind of information is difficult to come by beyond the anecdotal… at which level we have plenty of evidence which suggests the opposite. 

To return to obituaries, I suspect that as the discipline and our reach continue to expand, and more and more notable psychologists sadly pass away, we will continue to need to make difficult decisions on how many tributes can be included in print. The Psychologist is increasingly an integrated print and digital offering, and we again encourage everyone to visit our collection of wonderful memoirs from those who knew these brilliant people. Here, we can host extended and multiple obituaries in a timely fashion, and share them widely on Twitter.

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I read every issue from cover to cover, even the letters from angry members with chips on their shoulders. Keep up the good work, Jon and team!