Staff magazines in organizations before the age of the computer


  • Alistair Black

Staff magazines in British organizations – from hospitals to government departments, from libraries to the first multi-national companies – first emerged in the late-nineteenth century. They varied widely in circulation numbers, quality and editorial control. Staff magazines were a notable (though strangely overlooked by historians) product of the pre-computer information management revolution. Described as “handbooks of information,” staff magazines anticipated the "network age" by serving as a sophisticated form of organizational learning and knowledge exchange. As such, they contributed to labor and occupational solidarity, and the building of an "esprit de corps" in organisations that were becoming larger and more fragmented, and thus in need of strategies that constructed efficient conduits of communication. They further advanced corporate capability by serving as knowledge management devices, providing as they did workforce education and training, an understanding of operations and processes in other parts of the organisation, a record of the corporate memory, and opportunities to engage with corporate objectives and branding. Though often re-inforcing hierarchical flows of information, staff magazines also created interactions between people based on 'informal conversations.'


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