Should The Guardian be taking its own advice to a beloved London restaurant — to turn itself into a cooperative to keep from going under?

- photograph by MIL22

– photograph by MIL22

Funny to catch The Guardian dishing out, to an old Hungarian restaurant, the same advice that post-Gutenberg has been offering the newspaper for at least two years. Astonishing that The Gay Hussar is the spot just off Soho Square where we, in our dewy twenties – when it still had  genuine ‘socialist’ prices we could afford – ate many of our most cheering lunches in the upstairs room run by Albert, always at the table next to the flower box packed with saucy red geraniums.

But what advice could that possibly be? And why should an institution with the power and heft of this London newspaper pay any attention to an obscure little blog like ours? … Even closer to impossible than improbable, we agree. But scroll down anyway:

Extract from editorial in The Guardian, 25 October 2013: ‘The Gay Hussar in Soho could become a socialist model for today’s politicians’:

The Gay Hussar is … one of the most celebrated venues in the history of the post-war left. On these red plush banquettes, immortalised by the great cartoonists of the past 60 years, Bevanite heroes – Aneurin Bevan himself, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle – would scheme and plot, usually unsuccessfully. But they are long dead now, and the place needs a new owner. To the dismay of the loyal staff, it’s to be auctioned at Christie’s sometime in early December. Time surely to reclaim history and bring its traditional values into a modernised setting.

[…]

The real change would come from a new model of ownership, the previously untried diners’ co-operative … somewhere between the John Lewis model of profit-sharing for the staff and the Co-op model of dividends for regular customers. A socialist model for today’s politicians.

Extract from post-Gutenberg entry, 5 September 2011 — ‘Wanted: a brave newspaper, for an experiment in which readers become stakeholders’ — quoting a commenter reacting to a statistic in an opinion piece:

How would you redesign the ownership of newspapers? How about starting here:

Last month, for example, 51 million individual users clicked into the Guardian site — a number that should please online advertisers.

Great! So what if the Guardian were to let us readers/commenters buy shares in the comments sections of its site?

– Reader commenting on,‘At their best, newspapers became beautiful objects, I shall miss them’

Ian Jack, The Guardian, 24 September 2011

 Extract from post-Gutenberg entry, 6 December 2011: Co-owning media is on the horizon …’:

A stranger, someone astute and entrepreneurial, [said] about a comment posted in a discussion about the future of journalism on the site of Harvard’s Nieman Lab. ‘I think you’re on the right track …’. … He was referring to an outline of a means for old media organisations to move into post-print publishing … The essence of the idea was that every reader’s subscription would also be a share or financial stake in prospective profits. It would be an inducement for each reader or viewer to help bring many more visitors to a site. It would both help the site owner to attract more advertising and – implicitly – reduce dependence on advertising, if the concept of subscription-stakes caught on and went viral.

‘I tried an experiment along [those lines.]  ‘It was a tremendous success … as far as it went.’

[…]

‘Ownership can be transferred at any time. The trick is to have something worth transferring first. … There could be NGO funding possibilities from which a larger community trust with cooperative member ownership could emerge…’.

And that, strangely enough, is very close to the proposal for a ‘keiretsu-cooperative’.  A publishing enterprise with a thriving community of reader-commenters could easily progress to sharing ownership of the commenting sites where readers already supply most of what there is to read or watch.

Come on, Guardian, surely it’s time to take the plunge?

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