United Church News: More than ink on paper
|Barb Powell works on an issue of United Church News in the summer of 1991. W. Evan Golder photo|
As an eager, idealistic 30-something, I walked into my office on the 8th floor of the Church House for the first time in December 1990. My role, as the Office of Communication’s new copy editor, was to help shape United Church News stories, edit news releases, and assist with the layout of the paper and other assorted print projects.
I came to the national setting of the UCC with high expectations and almost 15 years of journalism, PR, and print design experience. My UCC experience was a bit less, however. Having joined a UCC congregation just four years earlier, I arrived filled with hope, but a bit scared to take on my role in the production of an important part of the national communication effort of the church. Especially in those early years, I relied on — and learned much from — my colleagues.
Some of my best experiences working on the news of the church have involved the friends I’ve met through the paper, particularly the oft-unheralded but crucial volunteers in the General Synod newsroom. Professional journalists all, they bring their extraordinary gifts — along with their humor, their support, and their heart — to the production of the Synod United Church News issues and the secular GS-related news releases. You can see some of their most recent handiwork in the General Synod pages of this edition of the paper.
Over the past 19 years, I’ve witnessed many changes in our beloved United Church News. Slowly, it has morphed from a rather traditional looking publication to one that has won several design awards. At the same time, shrinking budgets have meant that the once-full cadre of reporters — both on staff and in the form of stringers — has dwindled to next to none, meaning a larger responsibility thrust upon the shoulders of the editor and a smaller communication staff whose regular responsibilities encompass much more than just the production of the paper.
So I suppose it is time, albeit with some sadness, for the print publication of the denomination to transform into its next incarnation, leaving behind the news function for its cyber-cousin to fulfill — an intersection of talent with the world’s need that might make theologian Frederick Buechner proud.
My one hope is that the journalistic standards that were defined by its predecessors and nobly continued by United Church News continue to be maintained by its online successor. Especially today, when good journalism, and the ideals of journalistic integrity, have disappeared from much of broadcast news and most of the blogosphere, we have great need for the re-emergence of the standards set when the industry was young by Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, whose motto — forged in the 1940s when he was with United Press — still resonates today: fast, accurate and unbiased.
Whether in print or online, may that be the way it always is for United Church News.
Barb Powell can’t quite believe how quickly time has flown. She currently is director for production and administration for the UCC’s communication office.