A peddler of heresy? Oh my…

By on July 1, 2010

Love or hate the Anglican Journal, readers seem to be paying attention. And in fact, early results from a readership survey rolled out at General Synod 2010 in Halifax revealed some interesting trends. Very interesting. One respondent called the 135-year-old independent newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada “a peddler of dangerous heresy.” Another said it was “a critical link to the worldwide communion.” One way or the other, “it’s clear that people are paying attention and that buttons are being pushed,” noted Michelle Hauser, a consultant with the department of philathropy. Hauser helped to develop, distribute and monitor the Anglican News and Readership Survey. Before General Synod ended, about 60 delegates gave us their feedback. They said they want the Journal to carry more world news and news from other dioceses. They also want more opinion articles and reflections. Readers told us they want more local news and letters to the editor in their diocesan newspaper. (And by the way, it appears there are more readers of diocesan newspapers than of the Journal.) Readers also said they like to get their news and other information via podcasts. Who knew? And from radio more than television or newspapers. Now that General Synod 2010 is over, The Journal will be working with diocesan editors and other staff to ensure the broadest possible participation in the Anglican News and Readership Survey across Canada. If you would like a print copy mailed to you with a business reply envelope, or if you would like to make sure that your parish is included in the nationwide sampling planned for this fall, please contact Bev Murphy at 1-416-924-9192 x241. Alternatively, you can fill out the survey online at anglicanjournal.com. Just click on “Readership Survey” on the red navigation bar at the top of the homepage. Your answers will inform our strategic planning and help us prioritize services, particularly as serving the worlds of print and online news becomes more and more complex and demanding. “It is going to be utterly fascinating to digest the open-ended comments in this survey,” said Hauser. Not only will we be able to evaluate trends across Canada, but we will be able to break down information regionally for each of the diocesan newspapers.Another thing we wanted to do at General Synod was post all our stories on the website. It was a “paperless” synod, after all. We also wanted to be able to offer visitors a place where they could put in their two cents’ worth, commenting on any article they found there. We wanted to post video and audio files and we wanted a new, clean look. It was a tall order, but on May 28, with not a moment to spare, we launched the first “fix” in 13 years. By that time, however, it had become pretty clear that not everyone was comfortable with a “paperless” concept. Many delegates expected a daily newspaper from the Anglican Journal, just as they had at General Synod 2007 in Winnipeg.Sigh. We knew what that meant: working around the clock, doing in a day what we normally do in a month. For eight days in a row. Even with a crew of experienced journalists, we were pretty frayed around the edges at the end of it all. But we did it. Working and sleeping in shifts, we published 100 pages of a newspaper called the Anglican Journal at General Synod 2010. We posted 65 stories to the website and produced more than 20 videos, with text and music, capturing delegates’ candid responses.At lunchtime, delegates and visitors, eager to read about the previous day’s events, snapped up 500 copies of our daily newspaper like hotcakes. Many seemed particularly gung-ho about the photo caption contest. The number of ballots grew and grew as each new photo was published in the newspaper with the name of the previous day’s winner above it. Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert represented the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine in Toronto extremely well. She won twice. We suspect she probably had to re-pack her luggage at the airport check-in, though, just to avoid the overweight charges. The books we gave out as prizes were substantial.We also posted a series of questions on the website to “take the pulse”—at least of those who were online. These polls got a lot of activity and we encourage you to continue sharing your opinions with us as new questions are posted. Some 363 visitors to the site said they liked the new website; 59 said “no.” When we asked if the meeting of General Synod was too long, a clear majority said “yes.” And most answered “yes,” they would invite a friend to worship. The new website makes it possible to comment on each and every article, whether you were at synod or not. (We were very pleased to see that visitors took to this like ducks to water.) Predictably, stories about same-sex blessings drew the most comments. Those not at synod can also access all the stories about General Synod as well as each day’s newspaper online. See the home page for the link to a complete list of stories, videos and a PDF so you can print out your own copies of the eight daily newspapers. When I got home from General Synod, I slept for a day and a half. I did my laundry, I put food in the fridge. I got my dog back. Now, glorious summer and the promise of time off lie ahead. General Synod 2013 in Ottawa is a distant, shimmering thing. Will it be as successful as General Synod 2010? Will it bring out the best in people as we saw in Halifax? Will it enable us to see ourselves, warts and all, in a new, more benevolent light? Will we be able to hold onto that and continue to move forward? Only God knows. But we seem to have a bit of traction. Let’s keep up the good work.See you in September. It’s been a blast. Ω

For more on General Synod 2010 in Halifax, see the special supplement distributed with this issue of the Anglican Journal and your diocesan newspaper. Or go to anglicanjournal.com

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