Episcopal Church news publications to cease with January issues

Published December 17, 2010

Financial and policy considerations dictated the decision to stop publishing Episcopal News Monthly and Episcopal News Quarterly. Photo by: Marites N. Sison

Episcopal News Monthly, a newspaper printed in conjunction with diocesan partners, and Episcopal News Quarterly, a supplement to certain diocesan quarterly news magazines, will cease publication with the January 2011 issues.

The final issues of both publications, which will be produced before Christmas, mark the end of the Episcopal Church’s 50 years as a newspaper publisher. Episcopal News Service will continue to operate online, offering a mix of news stories, commentary, photos and video reports. The ENS website is due for a major redesign in 2011.

ENS, a descendant of the Diocesan Press Service that once mailed Episcopal Church news releases to communicators, also offers an e-mailed daily digest of the news that was posted online that day, along with other daily features. Reader can subscribe here.

"Diversion of our very limited staff and resources to support these publications is now impacting the news gathering and dissemination for the wider church," said Anne Rudig, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Communication. "Discontinuing the print publications will allow the news team to ramp up the coverage for the online news service."

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, outgoing ENM and ENQ editor, thanked the publications’ subscribers and other readers.

"I am grateful for their participation in this first and last year of the two publications and we hope to see them all online," she said. "I and my colleagues also appreciate the relationships we have had with our printing partners and communicators. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on our mission to tell the church’s story and help spread the gospel."

The decision to stop publishing Episcopal News Monthly and Episcopal News Quarterly came as a result of a combination of financial and policy considerations.

With current subscriptions at about 100,000, the two publications reach 4.7 percent of the church’s 2.1 million members. Dioceses and congregations have been leaving a partnership publishing program in recent years as they came to their own conclusions about the economics of print and the best ways to communicate with their members. The number of participants has declined to a high of 36 dioceses and congregations (out of 110 dioceses and 7,700 domestic congregations) to the current 16 in the monthly program and six in the quarterly. The partnership program, in which ENM and ENQ managed the partners’ printing and circulation needs, allowed partners to wrap their publications around the ENM and ENQ.

Current monthly printing partners include the dioceses of Bethlehem, Delaware, Eastern Oregon, Easton, Fond du Lac, Iowa, Long Island, Nevada, New Hampshire, Northern Michigan, Oklahoma, San Joaquin, Vermont and West Tennessee, along with Church of the Redeemer (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania) and Trinity Cathedral (Cleveland). The quarterly partners include the dioceses of Arizona, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Southwestern Virginia and Spokane.

Beyond the readers reached through the partnership program, the monthly newspaper has about 8,000 paid subscribers. Advertising revenue for the monthly and quarterly is in a near-decade-long downward trend.

A proposal to stop publishing ENM and ENQ was made to Executive Council in the fall as it considered a revised 2011 budget for the mission and administrative programs run by Church Center staff. Revenue projections showed that the amount of money that dioceses would contribute to that work was less than what General Convention hoped for when it passed the 2010-2012 budget in July 2009. The anticipated shortfall meant that Episcopal Church Center programs needed to be reduced in 2011.

Executive Council Oct. 25 approved a budget for 2011 that is five percent lower than the version adopted by General Convention in 2009. Total revenue is projected to be $37,147,458, while total expenses are budgeted at $36,966,829.

In addition to eliminating Episcopal News Monthly and Quarterly, the budget requires closing the Episcopal Books and Resources retail bookstore at the Church Center in New York City and its online store; and ceasing the resource-shipping operation that served EBAR as well as Episcopal Church Foundation, Episcopal Relief & Development and United Thank Offering.
The elimination of EBAR and the two publications means a loss of revenue, but also reductions in Office of Communication’s expenses, which were cut by $812,332.

Another $790,000 was cut from 2011 Mission Program operations. The budget requires elimination of several positions at the church’s New York office.

ENM and ENQ’s forerunner, The Episcopalian, began publishing in 1960 and became Episcopal Life 30 years later. When funding for Episcopal Life was reduced greatly at General Convention in 2009, the Office of Communication ceased its publication with the January 2010 issue. Episcopal News Monthly and Quarterly began publishing in February 2010.

General Convention made its budget decisions in 2009 based in part on "subsidiarity," which in the church’s case asks which aspects of the work of the church ought to be done at which level of the church. It was decided that support of diocesan publications no longer belongs at the wider church level.

ENS stories and photos are downloadable and available for use with credit by Episcopal Church-affiliated entities, which also can embed ENS videos and run a continuously updated and clickable list of ENS headlines on their web pages. ENS will add an e-mail digest of the highlights of each month’s reporting to help Episcopal Church communicators decide which stories they want to include in their print publications.

The concept of subsidiarity apparently came into play shortly after the October decision to cease ENM and ENQ. On Dec. 13 retired Episcopal Life editor Jerry Hames announced that an independent publication, Episcopal Journal, will publish its first issue in February. While Episcopal Journal will draw its news articles from Episcopal News Service and other Episcopal, Anglican and ecumenical news services, the publication will have no other affiliation with the Office of Communication.

"This effort is exactly the sort of outcome that General Convention’s discussion of subsidiarity envisioned," Rudig said. "We wish Jerry and his colleagues well in this venture."

Hames, the new paper’s editorial director, said in a press release that the Journal’s mission is "to inform, involve and inspire Episcopalians in the United States and abroad by sharing the good news of our church’s life and ministry."
The Journal’s printing partners include the dioceses of Delaware, Long Island, Bethlehem, Easton, Vermont, New Hampshire, Northern Michigan, West Tennessee, Iowa, Nevada, San Joaquin and Eastern Oregon. A quarterly issue of the Journal will also be produced for several dioceses who publish four times a year, the release said.


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