Let’s keep the lines of communication open

Published November 1, 2012

Why does the blind man sing with such joy? In the hurly-burly of downtown Toronto’s busy Bloor-Yonge subway station, he stands alone during rush hour. He cannot see the stern faces of the commuters pushing past him. He seems as oblivious to their tension as they are to his music. He sways slightly, his face tilted heavenward…to the grimy ceiling. There is no warmth in this place, yet his face beams.

Every day that I pass him, I wonder: What’s he got that I ain’t got? Is he the lucky one? Meagre though his means, he seems peaceful and happy, unaffected by the negative energy that surrounds him. He sings to his heart’s content, whether it’s a quarter, a loonie or nothing at all that falls into his instrument case.

I could sure use some of his irrepressible optimism right now. Here in the national office, we are once again beset by calls for budget cuts. We feel the world tilt, the weight of professional and personal obligations bearing down on us. Me, I am trying to live with the discomfort, even use it to look into the future. What lies ahead for the Journal and its readers?

When I first interviewed for this job, I was asked to consider the concept of editorial independence and what that would mean to me. I welcomed the question, but also took the opportunity to express concern about how “independent” the Journal could be if it is tied to the financial apron strings of General Synod. Now, three years into the job, I feel the seismic shifts under my department each year at budget time. Where will the cuts be? How profoundly will they affect our ministry? Editorial independence seems a luxury when the very future of the national newspaper appears to be at stake.

Can the church afford the Anglican Journal? Perhaps not. But can the church afford not to have the Journal? What would be the cost to the church?

The most profound impact on the Anglican Church of Canada would be the loss of the only direct link to people in the pews, right across the country. Thanks to our 2012 national readership survey, we know that many of you feel your diocesan and national newspapers connect you to the church. You told us that without these newspapers, you would know very little about what’s happening in your diocese or the Anglican church generally. Furthermore, if the Journal were to cease publication, there would be an immediate nationwide domino effect, as most of the diocesan newspapers would also disappear, thanks to the high cost of distributing them independently.

One of the solutions, of course, is to go “web-only.” This means that everyone can just turn on their computer and go to the Journal website for their news. But wait: many of you told us that you don’t own a computer. And those of you who do said you’re using it for email, not catching up on the latest parish/diocesan/national news.

I have no doubt that with time, most newspapers, magazines and books will be available only online. The caveat here is “with time.” As a culture, we’re just not there yet. Not in the secular world, and certainly not in Church Land (where, I suspect, clergy comprise the bulk of our online visitors).

What has emerged from our pulse-taking of readers’ needs is a clearer picture of two distinct audiences: one that is reading the newspaper and the other that is visiting us online. As one reader told us so succinctly, “Until my generation dies off, both print and electronic will be necessary-especially as we still pay the bulk of the bills!”

They say it is always darkest before the dawn. As I write this, I am looking at a proposal on financial independence for the Journal that was prepared for one of my esteemed predecessors, Jerry Hames…back in 1980. It is entitled, “Recommendations for Implementing a Self-Supporting System for the Canadian Churchman” (the name of the national newspaper back then). So, here we go, folks. In the weeks ahead, we will be working on a business plan that charts a new course for the Journal, 2013-style. It’s good to know that I’m not the first to want to look at this. But I hope, for everyone’s sake, that I’m the last.

Why does the blind man sing with such joy? He is doing what he loves. So am I.

Kristin Jenkins is editor of the Anglican Journal.
email: [email protected]


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