This month's issue of the Hertfordshire Countryside contained a number of items that I found interesting - but one major disappointment. The six page article on Knebworth There's a great choice at Knebworth - A special welcome to village shopping looked from the title as if it would be weighed down with advertising - but actually had a historically interesting text by Ann Judge. Attenborough's fields was an interesting piece by John Sear about an area of grassland habitat to the west of Bushey village - much in the tradition of articles in the early editions of the magazine. The two pages of Life and Times of Easter Bunny by Ivan Broadhead included some interesting medieval references to rabbit warrens in the county while the three page Village of Antiquity by Peter Etteridge had some nice photographs of Pirton to support a reasonable historical text. Two reader's letters caught my eye - and there was a full page on the Great Bed of Ware at Ware Museum.
So perhaps this was the best issue so far this year. So why am I bitterly disappointed. The front cover said "Spotlight Harpenden 8 page special feature" and if I had brought the magazine because of this I would have been robbed. There was a picture of a named pond, and another of an unidentified footpath (both provided by the town council - so could be seen as promotional), and there was a 150 word blurb ending "Harpenden is a great place for young and old". The remaining pages consist of a two page spread detailing a competition for a free meal in a Harpenden restaurant, a two page advertising feature on a firm of audiologists, a one page advertising feature on a firm of accountants, a one page estate agent's advert featuring houses over £1,000,000 each, and three smaller advertisements. Maybe there are some people who would buy the magazine because they needed a hearing air so that they could hear their accountant advice as to whether they could afford a meal out. However I suspect that the majority of people who purchased because of the words on the cover would have been bitterly disappointed and some might justifiably ask for their money back because of blatent misrepresentation under the Trades Description Act.
I know that such magazines need advertising to survive - but this is just not good enough. The magazine must include a reasonable amount of genuine information about the county if people are to read it. Boasting of special features which are only advertisements and editorial puff which is clearly anything but impartial will drive what used to be a great magazine out of business.