Some recent headlines made for interesting reading:
'Thanks to the hipsters, has the Campaign for Real Ale pulled its last pint?' asks the Telegraph, while the Indie wonders if the organisation is about to change its name and perhaps its entire remit. The BBC went with 'Should there be a crusade to save British pubs?', which, of course, is already heartland campaign territory, but there is a strong implication that this should become CAMRA's sole focus rather than worrying about all that 'real ale' nonsense.
Or possibly the cart really was leading the horse on this occasion. Given that the title of the press release in question was: Is this the end of the Campaign for Real Ale?.
Yes, that's the actual title of a Campaign for Real Ale press release. Provocative? Confusing? Stupid?
Suicidal? Quite possibly.
Not so much the gentle winds of change, but somebody somewhere really pushing an angle that either CAMRA is in crisis (almost certainly not true in any sense; membership figures are at record levels) or that the organisation is about to make drastic policy changes.
Once you get beyond the sensationalist hyperbole, the reality is a lot less radical: All over the country, over the next few months, CAMRA will be holding 'consultations' where members come together to air their opinions about the future direction of the campaign. That's it.
I'm attending one at the Southwark brewery in a couple of weeks time. Hopefully the beer will be good.
It's anticipated that at least of some those among the 177,000 members who can't be arsed to attend will fill in a survey. Voices will be heard. Voices of people like me who don't usually go to the AGM because we have better things to do, but who can be persuaded to attend a piss-up in a local brewery and express vaguely lucid opinions on the importance of making pubs assets of community value, or whether beer festivals should be allowed to serve British craft keg.
CAMRA really isn't at war with itself over its very soul. If anything the apathy of members is a bigger issue than zealotry.
So, why that press release? Why the dramatic, apocalyptic tone? When not a single thing has been decided yet?
Shit sticks. Negative publicity lasts a long time. Giving the mainstream press - who won't pay any attention to the smaller detail - the overwhelming suggestion that a big consumer group is facing an existential threat will surely to little but undermine confidence.
They've got a couple of days worth of media attention out of it, sure, but it's bound to backfire.