A VAST MEDIA room, an electronic forum with daily “ezine” bulletins, Web cams and traditional paper press kits are all pieces of the mix that will be offered to help delegates, the media and the general public find their way through the labyrinth of July’s General Synod.
Gone this year will be Anglican Video’s half hour synod interview programs on Vision TV, a national cable channel, at a savings of $100,000.
Doug Tindal, director of information resources for the Anglican Church of Canada until May 11 when he left for a new position as editor of a faith-based website, acknowledged in an interview that the upcoming General Synod from July 4 to 11 in Waterloo, Ont. may attract more secular media than in past years because of some potentially big news stories.
He listed full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the church’s precarious financial situation and the unveiling of an ambitious new plan to promote healing and justice with indigenous peoples as stories that could draw more news media to synod.
Mr. Tindal had firmed up plans for media relations at synod by the end of April and he said a new communications officer would be in place in May to run the operation at synod. The Anglican newsroom will be coordinating with the Lutheran newsroom, and there will be links to each other’s websites, Mr. Tindal added. (The Lutheran website is www.elcic.ca, the site for the Anglican Church of Canada, www.anglican.ca.)
Rev. Ken Ward, editor of The Lutheran, is in charge of the Lutheran newsroom. There will be a joint news conference featuring the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, and Lutheran Bishop Telmor Sartison following the Friday, July 6 vote on joint communion, which is expected to pass effortlessly.
Secular television and radio have rarely taken an interest in synod, and Mr. Tindal did not expect that to change this time around. “You have to remember.” Mr. Tindal said, “that synod does not have moments of high drama. It is concerned with process and careful listening, so that everybody gets a chance to have their say.”
A technical novelty Mr. Tindal hopes will be provided this year is video-streaming, or actual live video of synod which goes to people’s computer screens, and does not require downloading to view.
National viewership for previous Anglican Video broadcasts was high in the past. “Average minute” audiences were between 20,000 and 30,000. In order to be counted, a viewer had to be clocked on the channel for at least one full minute. Total reach for General Synod programming on Vision in a given year was between 500,000 and 700,000 viewers, Mr. Tindal said.
In the event that television news does decide to cover some of synod, there will be two good quality cameras providing a mixed broadcast feed. The media room will be on the mezzanine level overlooking the gym where sessions are held, running its full length, with ready access to the plenary floor.
It will be staffed by Anglican Journal executive assistant Steve Brickenden and volunteer Ana Watts, the president of the Anglican Editors Association. Mr. Brickenden and Ms. Watts will answer questions, help arrange interviews and provide media with background information and explanations of complicated processes.
Leanne Larmondin, website manager for the Anglican Church of Canada, will co-ordinate web coverage of synod, assisted by Todd Maffin who was co-ordinator at the previous synod. The Anglican Journal plans to publish a special section on synod in the September issue, the first issue after the newspaper’s summer hiatus.
Newsroom services will not be supplied only for media, Mr. Tindal stressed. Rather, services will also be available for synod delegates and members of the general public. People on site will get copies of printed daily highlights of resolutions and discussions. Media both on and off site will get news kits, backgrounders on key people and issues, and news releases on a daily basis.
The general public can sign up to an email distribution service, which will publish a daily “ezine,” or electronic magazine, covering the day’s highlights. People can also go into the “ezine” on the church’s website.