The shape of things to come

Published September 1, 2011

There’s something really weird about being the editor of a “news” paper that has to be written, designed and printed weeks before it is mailed out.

Does that make it an “olds” paper?

It certainly remains a challenge to manage information that is stale-dated and balance it with what you, our readers, need to know. So we print news that’s happening around the time of publication and bundle together news that has happened since the last issue. Then, we throw in columns, letters, reflection pieces and features (all expertly crafted, of course) that have a more forgiving expiry date.

Importantly, these kinds of articles invite you to weigh in with your thoughts and feelings. And you do, which is one of the things I love most. You are a passionate, vocal audience, whether patting me on the back or foaming at the mouth!

Still, I must confess that I feel conflicted because we do not have room to publish even a fraction of the letters we receive. And that’s really too bad because love us or hate us, the conversation needs to happen. Our job, as I see it, is to give you news and a place to share your views-a place where you can have a conversation with your fellow Anglicans as well as citizens of every stripe. Encourage or eviscerate, the choice is yours.

Now here’s the thing. The chances of the newspaper having more space to devote to publishing letters is quite small right now. But we remain hopeful, thanks to our fan base of loyal and supportive readers. However, on the website front, we are making strides. The good news? I can say it in one phrase: It used to be that the website was a place we published the stories we couldn’t fit into the paper, and to a small extent, this hasn’t changed. However, we are now operating with a reverse-osmosis model that has the news content on the website helping us determine what goes into the newspaper.

Last year, we launched a new site that offered a place to comment on every piece of content that was posted. And thanks to the very hard-working staff, there are 10 to 15 new stories each week, most of them news from across Canada and the Anglican Communion. Sure, we tend to get the same people commenting on these stories, but we are always encouraged to discover Signs of Intelligent Life. And I have no doubt that Brian and Rod would probably welcome more people to the conversation.

Of course there are many others who visit our website. Apparently up to 500 visitors each day. Not bad! We will be watching closely to see if further refinements add to that number.

Speaking of which, we are in the process of making more upgrades to the website that will create a place for us to publish Letters online. This means a lot more of the really good stuff, the raw opinionated stuff, can be read and commented on. And of course there’s always our Facebook page, which will now include a window on the home page through which you can view online activity. If you haven’t friended us yet, I invite you to jump in.

Now back to the newspaper. One of the things I learned early on was that we have several different audiences. There are three that we know of (kind of like the Three Faces of Eve, where you anxiously wait for another personality to emerge). Every time we prepare an article, we have to ask ourselves: Who is this for? Newspaper readers? Website visitors? Both?

We know that there are those who read only the newspaper, probably after they’ve combed through the diocesan newspaper. We’ve heard from people who prefer to get their news from the website and who say that by the time the newspaper arrives each month, they’ve read everything already. I guess these are the folks, along with the Foaming Brigade, who are using the Journal to line the cat’s litter box. (Hey, if we can help you live a greener life by providing recycling material, that’s a good thing, right?)

The point is we don’t know for sure. That’s why we’re conducting a nationwide readership survey to find out who reads and needs what. And this also gives everybody who is not online a chance to tell us what they think-about their diocesan newspaper, the national newspaper, the content, the look, the frequency, the size and anything else you can think of. Copies of the survey will be available in print form as well as online. Stay tuned for more details this fall.

Once we have your responses, we will sit down with the diocesan editors to put together a media strategy for the future. Our job is not to show you what we know; it’s to listen to what you have to tell us. Only then can we truly serve.

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


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