By Larry Jaffee
It’s with great mixed emotion that I’ve decided to cease publishing the Walford Gazette, which has been a major part of my adult life over the past quarter century. The truth is I really don’t have it in me to continue it for a variety of personal, career and business reasons. Please let me apologize in advance for anyone who I’m disappointing with this decision.
I am so thankful of the subscribers who have stood by this publication in thick and thin – mostly thin. And also, I’d like to thank all the contributors through the years. I co-founded in 1992 the Walford Gazette with the late Dan Abramson, who died at 45 in 1999, mainly because I was looking to do something entrepreneurial after being bored creatively at my full-time job.
That it was about a British television series I generally liked was a bonus. If we accomplished anything back in 1992, it was proving that a popular culture niche audience could be assembled for what many believe to be an acquitted taste. While I was a casual fan although bonafide Anglophile, Dan, on the other hand, was truly obsessed.
And even though we parted ways as business partners a year before he became sick with cancer, I’m sure he would have approved of me sticking with the Gazette as long as I had, even though as a business proposition it hadn’t made much sense for quite a while in the digital age. The Internet as a commercial force initially expanded the Gazette’s possibilities, but the abundance and immediacy of free information about EastEnders eventually caught up with our success.
True, you’ve ultimately been paying for me to be a curator, but not everybody is as discerning. Still I am extremely proud of this journalistic accomplishment, as much as writing regularly for The New York Times at 23 years old or publishing an article in Rolling Stone at 24, not to mention the thousands of articles I’ve published for a wide range of magazines, publications and websites I’ve edited for others since then. I have find memories of assembling every issue among the 100 published under the “Walford Gazette” banner.
I’m no computer whiz, and technical mishaps sometimes nearly derailed its publication. But I persevered. What a quarterly ritual to endure. I’m also appreciative of the friendships I’ve made among the dozens of EastEnders actors and creative team I’ve interviewed over the years, and the occasional professional courtesies afforded me at the BBC, where some honchos regarded me as a pain in the arse.
Some within the BBC failed to recognize that my efforts helped keep alive EastEnders in pockets of the US, while they miserably failed in the late 1980s to make it a national PBS show on par with Downton Abbey. I was even banned from visiting the studio for three years. I wore it as a badge of honour, and later took to task Auntie’s inexplicable cancellation of EastEnders from BBC America, a network that is still searching for an identity. I suggest you read my still-available books Albert Square & Me (2009) and Walford State of Mind (2011) for more of that inside story.
I’m also proud that the Walford Gazette was responsible for netting probably close to $1 million from viewers for public television stations, some of which used the newspaper as a thank-you gift as an alternative to the ubiquitous station ID tote-bags. I certainly didn’t get rich off of such donations. Yet today only three of the five US public TV stations (there were 25 when the Gazette began publishing) still airing EastEnders fund-raise around the show any more, and what they do is far less of what they’ve done in the past.
In the last few months of 2016, two more stations in Fargo, ND, and Houston, TX, cancelled EastEnders. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions of where it’s headed, but at least we have BritBox, the streaming subscription service, to watch current episodes 11 years ahead of what we see.
I’m happy to report it appears I have been successful in finding a successor to me to continue publishing the Gazette, so stay tuned.