The Anglican Church of Canada has launched an online news platform allowing readers to access the websites of the Anglican Journal and diocesan newspapers from a single location, while also making it easy for the newspapers themselves to share each other’s articles.
Anglican News Canada, intended to be a hub for the websites of Anglican newspapers across the country, launched today. Three news sites—The Anglican Journal; Faith Tides, the former Diocesan Post of the diocese of British Columbia; and Rupert’s Land News—are currently accessible from the hub, but other diocesan newspapers, most of which have never had websites before, have firm plans to join over the next few months.
So far, The HighWay, of the diocese of Kootenay; The Niagara Anglican; The Diocesan Times, of the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; and Anglican Life, the newspaper of the three dioceses of Newfoundland and Labrador will make the website their new online home between now and the summer. The dioceses of Ottawa, Edmonton and Athabasca are also slated to join but have not yet set a date, says General Synod web manager Brian Bukowski, who has been leading the project.
“Because these are now all digital and now because they’re on a shared platform, there’s an opportunity for dioceses to share stories from across the country or across their region,” he says.
The project has also included a redesign of anglicanjournal.com intended to give it a more modern look and feel. Enhancements to the site include a list of its most frequently read articles.
The origins of Anglican News Canada go back to a review of General Synod communications presented to the Council of General Synod in 2013, which proposed a “single news channel” for the national church. The channel as originally envisaged would have included press releases and other official communications from General Synod, but those will now remain on anglican.ca. That’s one of several aspects of the project that have changed across its “long genesis” as the project team consulted with dioceses to hear what they wanted out of the project, says Bukowski.
Consultation with the dioceses also revealed some of their common priorities for the project, says Bukowski. He mentions three of them by name: the ability to more easily share local stories across the whole church, the efficiency of running one central news site rather than leaving each diocese to run their own and the creation of an additional option for dioceses whose budgets will not support the continuation of their print publications.
Not every diocese has shown immediate enthusiasm for getting its stories out nationwide. Randy Murray is communications officer for the Diocese of New Westminster and editor of their diocesan newspaper, Topic. He says preparing for the new website has been a low priority for him—mainly because he has more urgent work, but also because he’s not sure there’s enough reader demand for coverage from distant dioceses.
“With communications things, you have to ask, ‘Who’s the audience for this?’ I’m not sure that’s really been answered,” he says.
Bukowski says he understands letting new projects take a back seat during the pandemic.
“We’re all overwhelmed. We all have more priorities than resources.” But more than that, the project is not mandatory for dioceses who don’t see it adding value. “In time, we’re hoping that each diocese can find the aspects of it that are valuable to them,” he says. For example, building and maintaining one website for everyone would save the dioceses having to build their own, guaranteeing they have a place to post stories and someone to call when they need support.
“We’re here to help get them up and running however they need,” he says.
Some of the publications already onboard with the new site will continue their print editions. Others have already gone online-only. But Bukowski is quick to clarify that the new site is meant as a supplement, not a replacement for existing print papers.
“I’m not building this as a way to accelerate or short-circuit any kind of move away from print,” he says. “The dioceses who have gone online have done so because they can’t afford to do their paper anymore. In that case the options are online or not doing that kind of storytelling anymore.”
In response to requests from the dioceses it surveyed, the design team gave the website a tool for easily printing out selections of stories as pamphlets. Bukowski says several dioceses asked for a tool like this to serve those who are still more comfortable getting their news on paper even if their local publication goes online.
It’s not yet clear whether dioceses will want to print pamphlets only for specific requests or do a limited number every month, says Bukowski. “The great thing about digital is that we can try something and say, ‘This isn’t working—let’s change it.’”