March 26, 2009

Electronic Media

On Saturday I attended Founders' Day at Chapman University, which featured DisciplesWorld editor Verity Jones as speaker. In a morning forum, she spoke about the history of the magazine.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has a long history of independent journalism. At one time there were dozens of newspapers and magazines being published in one form or another. Many folks saw the value of having editorially-independent publications that could report on church news as well as include opinion columns which fostered healthy debate regarding church issues. At the end of the 20th century, there was one such publication in print: the Disciple.

In early 2002, the Disciple ceased publication. Several Disciple members, alarmed by this, rushed to create a new publication in time so that there would be no period in which the denomination would be without an independent journalistic publication. They only had 45 days in which to start a magazine from scratch and get the first issue published--and amazingly, they succeeded!

In recent years DisciplesWorld has increased its online presence. With my own congregation's growing use of electronic media (we now have a website and a facebook group; our worship services are now available as podcasts; and we will soon be publishing our newsletter via email), I asked Verity Jones about the future of the DisciplesWorld website and the relationship between the magazine's online content and its print content. I hoped she would provide an answer that would help me as I lead my congregation in further exploration of these new media.

Her answer, basically, was "We're still discerning and figuring that out." (That's not an exact quote, which I point out in the interest of journalistic integrity.) She also mentioned that one of the features on the DisciplesWorld website was a community of bloggers, and pointed out to the crowd that my blog was one of those listed there. (I think this blog may have gained a few readers by her mention. Woot woot!) On the other hand, I think perhaps she was hoping I'd be able to help her find an answer to that question. I guess I should know more about these things, being a blogger and all, but really, I'm just fooling people into thinking I'm tech-savvy.

Nevertheless, the new media available today make this an exciting time. As people increasingly lose interest in print media, it is also a challenging time for all forms of journalism, including DisciplesWorld. I don't know how successful the magazine will be in adjusting to the changes, I don't know how successful my congregation's transition to an electronic newsletter will be, and I certainly don't know all the ways in which new forms of communication will affect how we do ministry. But it will sure be exciting to find out!

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