The United Methodist Reporter is not UMR Inc.

EditorNotes1

It’s been almost a year since my partners and I assumed the United Methodist Reporter name and took over operation of the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. During that time we’ve made lots of new friends and experienced highs and lows as we’ve attempted to keep the United Methodist Reporter name alive. We know that what we are doing falls far short of what The Reporter accomplished during its glory years, but we are happy to keep the tradition going even in a reduced manner.

While it’s been fun along the way, there have also been several challenges. When we heard that UMR Inc. (the former parent company of the United Methodist Reporter) was ceasing operation we reached out to take over the digital assets of the company as a means of continuing the legacy of an important voice in the life of our church. At the time we thought we were purchasing all the digital assets, but learned later that UMR Inc. had assigned the rights of the UMPortal project to United Methodist Communications (UMCom). We were sad because we would have liked the ability to host those files for folks to use into the future, but went on with our own project of making our United Methodist Reporter site more functional. A few months later we started getting calls from people about the UMPortal. Several churches and conferences had purchased customized versions of UMPortal and were using those as their web sites, only to find their access limited and updates not happening. We referred those with concerns to UMCom and were thus surprised when a UMCom staffer called us several months later wondering what had happened to the UMPortal. For reasons that aren’t clear, UMCom decided to pull the plug on the UMPortal hosting, and those files were no longer available . Unfortunately, because of the our holding on to the name, we got the phone calls.

Today the phone started ringing again. People from throughout the United Methodist connection had started receiving funding mailers from The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) (a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C.). It became quickly clear that IRD was using a mailing list that seemed to correspond to the old UMR newspaper mailing lists, and when asked the IRD shared that they had purchased the mailing from “The United Methodist Reporter.” Of course, the next person they called was me!

Worried that someone was misrepresenting our company, we called Luke Moon, Business Manager at The IRD to find out how they obtained the list. We learned that in the days when UMR Inc. was going out of business, The IRD had reached out to UMR Inc. CEO Alan Heath about the possibility of purchasing any mailing lists the company had available. UMR Inc. had a huge database of names and mailing addresses from annual conferences and local churches who hired UMC Inc. to produce and mail their customized copies of The United Methodist Reporter newspaper. Searching for income to pay off remaining debts and provide severance compensation for staff, Heath sold the entire list of names and addresses to The IRD for an undisclosed sum.

Some critics have suggested that UMR Inc. improperly sold off information that was not their property nor approved under terms of the agreements with the conferences and churches that used their service. Mr. Heath  said that to his knowledge, none of the conferences or churches were operating under a specific contract, and that there were no specific agreements regarding the ownership of that data or usage by UMR Inc. for business purposes, for at the time most of those agreements were issued, concerns about data ownership and privacy were not in the public consciousness.

CircuitWriter Media, the parent company of the current United Methodist Reporter, is certainly sorry about the confusion that remains. It’s hard to dissolve an institution with a long legacy like UMR Inc., especially when pieces and parts are sold piecemeal, and the rights of one part of the company are assigned to one group while another is assigned to a different organization. This is hard for all of us.

But our intention from the beginning was to be a digitally focused company, using the Internet as our primary, if not only, means of distribution. We were never given access to the mailing list data, and never wanted it. We had no input or control into how that data would be used or sold, and thus have no connection to the use of that data by The IRD. 

The good news is that The IRD is sensitive to the fact that there are United Methodists across the connection that want nothing to do with their organization, and they are willing to remove any name and address from their list if asked. You can call them at (202) 682-4131 or e-mail them at info@theird.org to make your desire known.

BTW, we’re happy to get your phone calls. We’d just prefer they would be news tips instead of complaints.

Thanks for your patience,

Jay Voorhees
Executive Editor

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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6 Comments on "The United Methodist Reporter is not UMR Inc."

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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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George Nixon Shuler
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I did not receive the mailing, however, if I had, I would not blame you. I receive many different mailings of all stripes and understand selling of mailing lists is a common business practice, although some organizations do ask those on their list if they wish their contact information not be shared. I do not find the IRD to be an organization which I respect, but finding out what they are doing is indeed informative. thank you for the sentiments expressed in your article.

Christy Thomas
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Thanks for the good clarification. I’ve moved and the IRD did not get my name and new address, but know I would have been quite unhappy to be on their mailing list and also saw several people on FB complaining about it. Hope this all settles out soon.

Mark
Guest

“…that want nothing to do with their organization” seems like a biased phrase, no? Perhaps “that would like to be removed from the IRD mailing list” would have been a more professional way to say it? Just sayin….

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