Written by Gregg Brekke
The staff of DisciplesWorld magazine - the journal of news, opinion and mission for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) - announced today that it is ceasing publication after nearly eight years and dissolving its non-profit publishing entity, DisciplesWorld, Inc.
Citing declining ad revenues along with lower than anticipated subscriptions and charitable giving, the magazine's board of directors unanimously voted to stop print and online publication and recommended the liquidation of corporate assets in an attempt to meet obligations toward creditors.
The magazine had recently experienced other periods of financial difficulties. A press release noted its attempts to stay in business:
Faced with declining revenue from subscriptions, donations, and advertising, DisciplesWorld came close to shutting down in 2007 and again in 2008. In early 2009, the magazine received a major grant to formulate new strategies to adapt to the changing publishing landscape. DisciplesWorld had planned to re-launch its website in January 2010 with expanded features, including the ability for site users to post news articles and share content.
"We made a valiant effort. We chose to move forward rather than just hold the course through the recession," said publisher Verity Jones in the release. "I am saddened that this publication is coming to an end, but I am proud of the magazine, its staff, readers, writers and supporters."
DisciplesWorld was launched in 2002 by James Suggs and Robert Friedly, retired publisher and editor (respectively) of The Disciple. Friedly and Suggs hired Sherri Wood Emmons as managing editor. Verity A. Jones was hired as editor and publisher and Rebecca Bowman Woods as news editor in 2003.
DisciplesWorld won numerous awards from the Associated Church Press, a trade association for religious publications. Following its first year, DisciplesWorld received second place in the "Acorn Award" category for best new publication. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, it placed second in the "Best in Class" category for denominational magazines, and in 2008 it won the top award for editorial courage for the January/February 2008 issue on the ordination of gays and lesbians.
The magazine's subject matter included controversial issues, such as war, gun control and immigration. In November of 2008, the editors devoted an entire issue to the survivors of the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana, 30 years after the tragedy.
"I'm saddened by the news of DisciplesWorld closing," said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, UCC communications director. "It was an excellent publication and an important partner with United Church News in telling the stories of our shared mission, especially those from Global Ministries. Our prayers go out to the staff and their families, and to all those who will miss DisciplesWorld's ecumenical and prophetic voice."
The publication's editors are hoping to produce a final issue in early 2010 but noted beyond that, due to creditor obligations, unfulfilled subscriptions would not be refunded. The magazine's web site <disciplesworld.com> will remain online during the ramp-down period.