UMR Communications, including United Methodist Reporter, to close

Board members and staff of UMR Communications hold communion after closure vote. UMR photo by Sam Hodges

Finding no viable plan for reversing financial losses of recent months, UMR Communications will cease operations on May 31.

UMR Communications (UMRC) publishes the United Methodist Reporter in print and digital formats and online, and provides printing and communication services to churches and other nonprofits.

The final print Reporter will carry the date June 7, but will be mailed and printed by May 31.

The UMRC board reluctantly but unanimously voted this morning to close during a tearful meeting at the nonprofit’s Dallas office.

“At one time, our ministry produced nearly 300 separate editions of the newspaper which integrated content created by our news staff with content provided by church and conference partners,” said Tom Palmer, board chair.  “That number has decreased over the past 10-15 years due to changes in publishing technology. The financial crisis of 2008 had a significant impact on both individuals and institutions. Local church and conference finances were also severely affected. As a result, a growing number of churches and conferences either ceased publishing Reporter editions or changed their publishing frequency. We now no longer receive enough revenue from our publishing and printing operations to sustain the overhead needed to maintain the ministry.”

Closure will cost the jobs of the 26 remaining employees, including some with more than 40 years of service. Thirteen others were laid off near the end of 2012.

Alan Heath, CEO since August 2011, said the ministry had struggled financially for several years. But the late 2012 loss of a major contract – for printing, as well as for warehousing and shipping curriculum materials – reduced revenue by about 40 percent.

Reporter editions have declined to 45, though UMRC has continued to print other newspapers, as well as doing a variety of specialty printing.

Since the beginning of the year, efforts to cut costs while seeking new income could not keep the ministry in the black. Mr. Heath noted that UMRC has operated as a fee-for-service ministry, with no strong donor base and no direct support from the United Methodist Church.

In recent days, various organizational alternatives were explored internally and with friends of the ministry, Mr. Heath said, but closure became the only realistic step.

“There was no solution that didn’t involve red ink,” he told board members.

Mr. Heath added, “This decision obviously affects not only our newspaper customers, but other customers that have relied on us for printing and mailing services for many other products. We are sorry to leave our partners in ministry who have been so faithful to continue their relationship with us. We will do our best to help these ministries find a new print provider.”

Customers with questions are encouraged to contact the following:

Debbie Christian, Director of Production,

Kay Fielder, Sales and Customer Service,

Cherrie Graham, Ad Sales and Customer Service,

Wendy Campbell, Sales and Customer Service,

For departing employees, severance and vacation pay will not be available in the short term, for lack of funds, Mr. Heath said. He added that after liquidation of assets, any remaining funds will be used to pay former employees  proportionally.

The Reporter has its origins in pre-Civil War Methodist papers in Texas, and was long the main vehicle for news about Methodists in Texas and across the Southwest.

In recent decades, it has covered the full United Methodist Church, offering independent news coverage, features and commentaries. Staff members have regularly won religious press awards.

Mr. Heath said an appropriate home will be sought for the newspaper’s print and online archives.

The UMRC board celebrated communion at the end of this morning’s meeting, led by the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, a board member and director of communications for the Iowa Conference.

Before doing so, he said: “Many of us standing around these ordinary tables have received the gift of grace of people of the UMR family – the grace of an extra day, or days, or more when we’ve needed to send our copy for a paper, the grace of converting stick-figure ideas into beautiful designs, the grace of telling stories, offering commentaries, helping us to see beyond our own horizons. And we are the better for the gift that the UMR team is.”


Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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19 Comments on "UMR Communications, including United Methodist Reporter, to close"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)

1 year 4 months ago

Too bad some of the funds to let the Bishops enlarge their (our) parsonages could not have gone to save this most vital communication tool. By the way, does anyone know size and cost/value of Jesus’ parsonage – just asking!!


[…] was as taken aback as everyone else by the rather sudden announcement that UMR Communications, along with its signature publication, the United Methodist Reporter, is […]

2 years 4 months ago

Dollars are always the issue. Yes, it is sad that many good folks are going to have to find new employ. But, had the heirarchy in the denomination not been so concerned about the phylacteries they receive–had some of the progressive agencies not drained the coffers, perhaps UM Communications–including the Reporter–would still be viable and affording the church they research, knowledge, reporting, and expertise.

2 years 4 months ago

Please remember that The Reporter was an independent publication with no organizational ties to any official church agency. UMR Commumications and United Methodist Communications are two separate organizations. One operated on funds received as a result of service and product provided (UMR) while the other is supported through apportionment funds (UMCom). It's a distinction that many do not realize. –Alan Heath.

2 years 4 months ago

If, as we're frequently told – and with good reason – that communication is key to keeping relationships vital, losing this Reporter communique is indeed sad for our denomination. This resource has been invaluable in formulating discussions and classes and for information when serving on the many and various local church committees. It saddens me greatly that this resource is being totally abandoned and cannot perhaps be continued in some online format, which is how I've been reading it for several months. A link to the Reporter has recently been included in our weekly emailed prayer letter and I venture to guess others have accessed it frequently since this inclusion began. Thank you for those who have invested their talents, prayers and resources over the years. May God's Grace lead you into other areas of service.

2 years 4 months ago

How truly sad! You were not only the publisher of my Conference (Central Texas) and my local church (First UMC Fort Worth) editions over the years, but you were committed partners with us as well as many other local church and conference clients. But most of all – you have been friends! It’s heartbreaking to realize you will not be there with your capable independent voice. Some Christians speak of their faith; UMR’s staff lives it! You will be missed.

Carolyn Stephens
Former Conference Director of Communications
Former UMR Communications Board Officer

jean rollin
2 years 4 months ago

I am incredibly sorry to read this article! I have been reading the online version every day to keep up with what is happening around the country in the UMC.
This is a huge gap in our communication system to lose the online version, too. As another commenter stated, I wish there was a way to keep the online version going since that is how many people get their info now. I can understand the print version problem with declining readership and publication, but not losing the online version, too.
Thank you to all of the folks who did a great job of providing us information from around the country and world. I truly wish there was another way.
Blessings to all. Rev. Jean Rollin, Common Ground: A United Methodist Community, Cambridge, MN

2 years 4 months ago

Wow. This is a very sad turn of events. We talk a lot about "connection." THE REPORTER is one of the few "beyond the local church" resources by which I have actually felt connected. I appreciate the excellent staff, both present and past, for your faithful communication of issues that are important to this reader. Like I said: a very sad turn of events.

Ken Sommerville
2 years 4 months ago

While I realize that print medium has had a difficult time surviving in this digital era, I find the news about closing our communications branch unsettling.

I regularly consume the information posted on this website and find it important to the connectional nature of the UMC.

We, as methodists, must find a way to continue to communicate our successes and ideas in the public forum,

2 years 4 months ago

Thanks to everyone for a great ministry. I pray all God's best for everyone knowing that God will find new places for you to share your gifts and talents down the road.

2 years 4 months ago

I was associate editor of what was then TM/UMR from 1974 to 1980 and am saddened greatly by the demise of the newspaper. In its heyday, UMR was a journalistic force to be dealt with and a watchdog for the church. My gratitude to all those who built and have struggle for so long to make a success of the newspaper. It will be missed. My love and concern goes out to the employees. Thanks for all you have done.

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