Editors argue against cuts to newspaper budget

Published June 16, 2006

Editors of the Anglican church’s diocesan newspapers have released a position paper expressing concern about the possibility of “very large cuts” to the Anglican Journal saying they would “seriously impact” their own newspapers and deprive Anglicans of “one of the most visible signs of unity” and “the most useful tools of evangelism and education in the church.” The four-page statement, signed by editors of newspapers in 27 out of 30 dioceses, was released in the wake of reports that the $1.1 million deficit incurred by General Synod in 2005 might translate into significant cuts for the Journal, the church’s national newspaper. The Journal currently receives a grant of $584,000 from General Synod to help defray the cost of publishing 10 issues per year for its 200,000 subscribers. The editors said they feared that catastrophic cuts to the 131-year-old Journal might end the newspaper and, without its printing and distribution partnership with the Journal, “virtually every diocesan newspaper faces extinction.” The editors’ statement was sent to Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), the house of bishops and the Prioritized Operation Plan Task Force. The task force was formed by CoGS last May to outline the national church’s priorities after General Synod treasurer Peter Blachford said that current funds can no longer sustain all the work that General Synod has been mandated to do. “Our newspapers together are key institutions in reflecting and building the culture and community of the Anglican church in this country, especially as the church prepares for what may well be a momentous General Synod meeting next year,” argued the editors, who signed the statement after their annual Anglican Editors’ Conference, held June 5-7 in Toronto. “We must not forget that at present and for many years to come, the Journal is the single communications vehicle that goes into every identifiable Anglican household. We have a mere nine months to inform and educate Anglicans throughout Canada before the General Synod takes place.” (The next meeting of General Synod, the church’s triennial governing body, will be held June 19 to 25, 2007 in Winnipeg.) The editors also noted that the 2005 Anglican Journal Appeal had experienced a “phenomenal” 38 per cent increase in donation revenue from the year before and attracted 2,000 new donors, reflecting just “how much Anglicans value a monthly newspaper.” They added: “We believe it would be a grave disservice to them to significantly cut the budget of the Journal, which they so clearly wish to support.” While its costs for postage, printing and newsprint have risen in recent years, the Journal has borne several budget cuts, which resulted in reductions in staffing and issue size; to pare down its funding even more, wrote the editors, would likely trigger either staff layoffs, reduced issue size and frequency, or a ceasing of publication. The Journal downsized to 16 pages from 20 in recent years, and even published just 12-page issues for some time in the 1990s; to reduce the pages even more “could save money,” but would nonetheless “make for a seriously diminished paper” with fewer sections (letters to the editor, opinion, culture and features), which have been recognized with several awards, the editors said.”More to the point, we don’t believe that advertisers – who currently contribute more than $200,000 per year to the Journal‘s revenues – would be as likely to advertise in a paper smaller in size and any savings would be offset by a loss in advertising revenue,” the editors added. The editors also said they were “united in our opposition” to the idea of reducing the Journal‘s frequency of publication to six or even four times a year. Such a move would “dramatically change the nature of the Journal and our diocesan papers” and the crucial and regular link between the national church and dioceses to parishioners across Canada “would be profoundly eroded,” they said. In the worst-case scenario, if the Journal were to end publication, “it would be the death knell of most if not all diocesan newspapers also, due to the loss of our shared Heritage Canada designation,” they said. Once ended, a publication can no longer resume due to the loss of the postal subsidy, they added. The editors pointed out that the Journal and the diocesan papers and their publishing and distribution partnership “are the envy of many denominations.” Only a few other churches “can reach every identifiable member on both a national and diocesan basis for a net cost to the Anglican church that turns out to be less than $3 a year per household for both printing and postage,” the editors said. “There is no absolutely no cheaper way to communicate, to go into the home of virtually every Anglican,” the position paper stated. The editors said that they were mindful of the challenges that a tight fiscal situation posed on all of the church’s ministries. “The Council of the North, International Partnerships, the Office of Gift Planning, PWRDF, and the many other branches and missions of the Anglican Church of Canada are all vital programs – as are the programs in all of our dioceses,” the editors said. “However, it would be shortsighted in the extreme to cripple or destroy the communication vehicles that are crucial in garnering support for all these programs – your national and diocesan newspapers.” Without the newspapers, the national church and dioceses would be “forced to rely on very expensive direct mail advertising campaign to establish their presence and get their messages out.” Responding to suggestions that churches could rely more on the Internet rather than newspapers to get their messages out, the editors noted that while the electronic delivery of news has been increasing, it is nonetheless “many years away from becoming the means by which most Anglicans receive information about their church.” The editors added, “Information on the Internet must be searched for; information in the Journal and diocesan newspapers is delivered directly to Anglican homes,” they noted. Editor’s note: Readers wishing to support the editors’ position are invited to sign an online petition


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