Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The Call Staff

200 respond to survey

Report on the Readers’ Survey

First Published: The Call, Vol. 9, No. 29, August 4-17, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Strong endorsement of the current direction of The Call and a number of criticisms of its present weaknesses–these were the conclusions of the recent “Call Reader’s Survey, published in our June 2 and 9 issues.

The Call staff has spent the last couple of weeks poring over the results of our survey. The response was very good. Over 5% of our readership responded, which is significantly better than previous Call surveys and at least twice as high as typical newspaper surveys of this kind.

At the same time, we realize that the conclusions we can draw from the survey are limited. First of all, the majority who responded were from among our longtime, avid readers. About 50% have been reading The Call for more than three years; 58% read most of the articles; and 33% also sell the paper. In other words, very few occasional and first-time readers responded.

Further, 60% were young adults, between the ages of 26-35, and 67% had at least some college education. However, whites and minorities responded proportionately to their numbers in the population.

Secondly, we realize that the format was inadequate. In other words, the main problem with The Call is not one of “more” or “less” of particular kinds of coverage. (In general, people wanted more of almost everything!) Rather, as many commented, the main concern is with the quality of articles and the general direction the newspaper is taking.

In spite of these limitations, we know more now about what some of you think and that is helpful.

We’re encouraged by the vote of confidence given us. Many readers cited improvements such as less stereotyped writing and dogmatism, a more appealing format and articles having a more factual basis. And many were concerned that these improvements have not been reflected in the circulation of The Call.

But a recurring theme of the comments and a cutting question for all of us, was, “Who is The Call aimed at?” Many were critical of the paper for appealing too much to a narrow “left” audience. On the other hand, some questioned how we can do better at uniting left, progressive forces.

One reader put the question squarely: “What is the relationship between being a Marxist-Leninist newspaper and The Call’s correct goal of broadening coverage and readership?”

A small minority felt that its communist content prevents the newspaper from reaching broader numbers. Others felt that big improvements could be made in both making The Call a stronger Marxist-Leninist paper and one with broader influence. Here are some of the most prevalent comments.

Less superficial explanations–more analysis

This is a criticism that was applied to almost every area of The Call’s coverage. Our readers ask that we bury simplistic formulas: “Sometimes you hurl abuse at other ’communists’ or the super-rich rather than criticize their positions more analytically.”

One example of this crying need for analysis was indicated by the large vote for more on economics and comments requesting a thorough examination of inflation, recession and the complexities of the economic crisis in the U.S.

“I’ve read it before” syndrome

The Call should provide more information that can’t be obtained from other sources. Almost 55% of those who answered called for more investigative reporting and 45% for more on-the-spot reporting, indicating a desire for “fresh” news. Also, some of the most common answers to “kinds of articles I usually don’t read” were demonstration articles with similar styles and slogans, polemics and stereotyped labor articles.

Let the readers draw their own conclusions

Don’t spoon-feed readers with Marxism; don’t confuse commentary with news articles where the facts should speak for themselves. These were common criticisms. Under the category of article format, debates and opinion articles ranked very high, reinforcing the idea that controversy and contending views can help develop the struggle.

Apply Marxism to U.S. conditions

One reader wrote, “The Call is a voice for socialism, but it doesn’t really provide a socialist vision or program.” Too often our discussion of socialism has been limited to China’s boundaries, probably a large part of the reason that few readers called for more on China, but nearly 50% called for more on other socialist countries. By the same token, the most popular category of any in the survey was workers’ history, 60% asking for more, with questions attached like, “How did people deal with the last depression in the ’30s?”

This strong sentiment in favor of applying Marxism more to American conditions was reflected in various comments. Some asked for clearer statements on particular labor demands and campaigns. Others expressed the need to understand how to build multinational unity–more on white workers–and want more specifics on how workers can fight the attacks on their living standards. Many were critical of The Call’s election coverage for analyzing candidates without taking a stand on how the American people can participate in elections to their advantage.

Our readers also expressed the need to “personalize” Marxism as well as “Americanize” it. One indication of this was the strong vote for articles on the family, childcare and personal relationships.

Besides addressing these questions in particular articles, many respondents pointed out that the use of bylines, humor, letters and question-and-answer formats improve the personal character of the newspaper.

You can be sure we will take to heart the many criticisms and comments and do our best to incorporate them into a stronger and more useful newspaper.

The Call Staff