Lay of the Land: The final UM Reporter issue, and the final ‘-30-’

Editor’s note: This article was submitted prior to the announcement of the continuation of www.unitedmethodistreporter.com but CircuitWriter Media LLC, and is primarily in response to the end of the print edition of the United Methodist Reporter and UMR Communications Inc. We include it to honor the legacy of that which has gone before. 

By Richard Hearne, UMR Columnist…

One of the first newspaper traditions I learned in journalism class was that every story ended with the number “-30-.” I never knew the reason (I did look it up this week), but I have always remembered to follow that practice. It made me feel very professional.

Richard Hearne

When I became lay leader of the North Texas Annual Conference in 2008, the Rev. Joan La Barr—my good friend and then communications director for the conference—asked me to write a bi-weekly column for the North Texas edition of the United Methodist Reporter. Since my term ended I’ve been honored to write this column for the national Reporter, at the request of Managing Editor Sam Hodges.

It’s been a task that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and always looked forward to doing. So you can imagine my sadness when I learned that UMR Communications, the parent company of the Reporter, will cease operation with this issue. My first thought is for all the staff members at UMR, including many who have devoted most if not all of their professional lives to producing this award-winning newspaper. They must be devastated, but they can take great solace in knowing that they “fought the good fight” and continued to maintain their professional integrity. May God bless you, my friends.

We now find ourselves without a powerful independent voice for the United Methodist Church and United Methodists across America. I do not believe print is dead, and I am convinced that someday our denomination will wake up and again see the need for effective print media. But for a while, the church will be in transition.

What happened?

I have the additional perspective of having worked for UMR from 2006-2009 as a sales representative. I visited hundreds of local churches and annual conferences, promoting the benefits of using the United Methodist Reporter as their primary communication tool. In the end, I was not very successful. As postal rates increased (and postal service became less timely), I found that the “mountain was becoming too steep to climb.” The cost of the newspaper was very reasonable—around 17 cents per issue—but the U.S. Postal Service fee of over 40-50 cents created a very high cost, in the minds of some. Many churches unfortunately allowed the bean counters to determine how they would communicate about ministry to their congregations.

In many cases, too, I believe apathy at the local church level was a factor. The heart and soul of any local church or conference edition of the Reporter was information provided for its pages by members of that church or conference. I found, though, that few churches realized the potential of this communication tool. I urged them to write stories that were “Inspiring, Informative, Interesting and Inviting.” But too often, the local pages were filled with bulletin board information—days and times of meetings with few other details.

Now I’m not bold enough to claim that all of my own columns followed the “four I’s.” But I tried always to write what God put in my heart, based on what was happening in the local church, annual conference and general church. And people responded; I could never go to a gathering of North Texas United Methodists without meeting appreciative readers. My last column, about gay marriage, drew hundreds of responses. Over time, some agreed with my thoughts, some did not, but my columns resonated with laity and clergy because the topics were timely and based on what I had seen and heard as a conference lay leader.

So let me sign off with this bit of advice: When communicating anything to your congregation, do your best to make it Inspiring, Informative, Interesting and Inviting. If you don’t meet those standards—regardless of the media or the cost—you are wasting your time.

A pastor friend once told me that we worry ourselves too much about what is happening to the church. The church belongs to God, and God will determine the future. May God continue to bless each of you and your ministry. I will continue to pray for the United Methodist Church, my home.

-30-

Mr. Hearne is former lay leader of the North Texas Conference.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to
editor@circuitwritermedia.com
.

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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)
 
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