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May 1956

Across the Editor's Desk

EVERY once in a while our old newspaper training comes back to this editorial desk and we begin to ask ourselves some rather insistent questions. Like our old City Editor used to query us back in our cub days when we got back full of confidence from our first assignments. Those sessions usually wound up with your cub feeling that he hadn't really covered the story at all and why did he get into this business in the first place.

This is one of those times. For on the desk is the annual official report on the membership of worldwide AA. And we don't understand it at all. Our official membership. . .every nose accounted for. . .as of January 1956 stands in the record as 135,905, about 4,000 more than last year. And yet the group figure has jumped by some 425 new organizations.

It says here, furthermore, that American membership dropped by some eight hundred souls whilst groups outside the United States and Canada added the four thousand members. And most confusing of all, total contributions to General Service Headquarters went up by nearly $20,000 for the year.

We don't know where to begin to understand this. General Service Headquarters annually asks the groups to send in membership numbers. A lot of them don't or perhaps honestly don't know how many members they may have. You hear lots of stories which hardly lend themselves to any scientific measure of AA's growth. But I have yet to hear any that don't tell pretty generally of group growth; of two groups forming where one was before; of extending lines of service into business and industry; of growing hospital and institutional activity and so on.

We know all this is conscientiously meant. But we doubt that the figures have any accuracy or real meaning. Journalistically we'd like very much to know how many people have embraced AA. (We have been able to stay sober without this knowledge up to now.) But we're just curious. So we are going to try to figure out a way of coming up with a journalistic count by way of the Grapevine for this story. You got any ideas how we can do this?

Maybe Uncle Ab's theory (pg. 35) is true that people are "passing through" AA. (If your reporter ever entertained such a thought he'd know he was on his way to a gin mill. I've passed through too many things in my lifetime.) So if you get some queries in your group in the next few months you'll know it's your very own CUB snooping for a story.

The old City Editor is breathing down his neck.