FEB. 12, 2014 UPDATE: AFFIRMATION STATEMENT TO BE DISCUSSED AT CONVENTION 2014
ACP members and related faith communicators are looking forward to continued planning for the future of religious journalism at the upcoming ACP/EC Convention April 23-26 in Chicago.
Chicago, Sept. 26, 2013
Associated Church Press concerned about future of religious journalism and editorial freedom
CHICAGO—At its fall meeting in Chicago, the board of the Associated Church Press approved an “Affirmation of Religious Journalism” that the group will be sending to the denominational leaders of its member publications.
According to the statement, “In recent years reorganization and strategic repositioning in many denominations in North America have led to the demise of a host of venerable denominational magazines, newspapers, and news services.” Examples cited by the document include the United Methodist Reporter (which ceased publication in May 2013), The Progressive Christian (formerly Zion’s Herald, January 2013), Episcopal Life (2011), Disciples World (2010) United Church News (2009), and The Church Herald (2009). The Reformed Church in America’s Church Herald had been in continuous existence for 180 years, and the Methodist Zion’s Herald/Progressive Christian for 190 years.
In addition, the ACP notes that “many other churches’ print and electronic news sources have experienced severe financial and staffing cutbacks and/or pressure to redefine their missions in greater alignment with corporate communication models and development priorities in their denominations.”
In view of these trends the members of the ACP “are concerned that professional religious journalism and editorial freedom are increasingly being sacrificed in favor of public relations, promotion, and fundraising…. Shortsighted priorities with long-term consequences appear to be driving decisions about publishing and communication practices.”
These decisions, according to the ACP, are creating a “growing credibility gap within our denominations” and “undermine the authenticity that young people in particular are demanding from religious institutions.”
The statement includes an appeal to denominational leaders to “stop this serious erosion of religious journalism” and an invitation to them to “discuss these issues with the ACP members and other religious journalists and communicators in their denominations.”
The “Affirmation of Religious Journalism” reflects concerns that have been discussed among ACP members and on the ACP board for several years. At the association’s 2012 convention in Chicago, a lively panel discussion between ACP members and denominational leaders tackled “Competing visions? Recent trends and conflicts in denominational journalism.”
A draft of the statement was presented at the business meeting of the 2013 convention earlier this year in Indianapolis. The members approved the statement and directed the board to finalize it and to communicate it to denominational leaders and the broader public.
The Associated Church Press, founded in 1916, is the oldest interdenominational Christian press association in North America. Its membership includes mainline Protestant, interdenominational, evangelical, and Catholic print and electronic publications and news services, as well as individual and affiliate members.
For more information, please contact:
Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Chair, ACP Religious Journalism Task Force
Gregg Brekke, ACP President
Joe Thoma, ACP Executive Director
Verity Jones, ACP Religious Journalism Taskforce