Commentary

This little pub goes to marketing

The annual Associated Church Press (ACP) conference is a wonderful opportunity for those of us in content production to learn best practices from colleagues, hear innovative suggestions from workshop leaders, and reconnect with old friends. It is also a time to honor the work of writers, editors, designers, and other word nerds.

The 2013 edition of this event, held in early April in Indianapolis, certainly was that. And Metro Lutheran was pleased to win a couple awards along the way.

Bob Hulteen

But this year the board of ACP came with an item of business. As we have watched some of our sibling publications fold, and have mourned that loss, we have also identified a second troubling trend. Increasingly, it seems, denominations are transfering their quasi-independent publications (and accompanying journalists) into their marketing or promotions departments.

So, “what’s the big deal about that,” you might ask. Well, a professional value of these time-tenured journalists is that transparency, although a challenge for church executives, is essential to ensure the health of the institution, in this case the church.

If religion journalists are to become marketers, simply promoting the brand and selling the programs of the insitutiton, they are not contributing at their highest value.

The membership of the ACP supported the proposal of the board and strategized about how best to make known this concern. A small group is editing (because large group editing by a room full of editors wasn’t working too well) a public statement and is putting together an action plan to address these concerns with denominational leaders.

Metro Lutheran is already an independent and pan-Lutheran voice, so no single entity can recalibrate its mission to suit particular interests. While staff attempts to be attuned to its stakeholders, it covers regional Lutheran news as objectively as possible.

Denominational publications don’t have that level of independence, but they are at their best when they can still report church happenings without trying to sell them to the reading public.

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