By Penny Mulvey
What role does a church newspaper play? Whose interests does it serve? Newspapers are defined by their very name – the purveyors of news, and news is basically the presentation of information about recent events. A monthly paper can clearly not compete with a daily. Any so called news items in a monthly paper will be ‘old’ by the time they reach the intended reader. What can a monthly newspaper contribute in a space that is crowded with information – via radio, television, print and online?
These questions of being a newspaper in an era when more and more monthly publications are either moving into a magazine format or going online is an important one for us to ask. There are other questions too, that relate specifically to our sector – religious press. Crosslight is in a privileged position. The Uniting Church values the editorial independence of its publication. However, that independence carries with it a great responsibility.
Looking over the past 12 months of Crosslight publications, this paper has covered some of the big news stories that have been impacting our state, our nation and the world. Issues around sports cheats and manipulation of rules (Lance Armstrong, the Essendon Football Club and Australian swimming); natural disasters – floods in Queensland, bushfires in NSW, Tasmania and Victoria, the devastating aftermath of the typhoon which swept through the Philippines; the Royal Commission and parliamentary enquiry into child sex abuse; the ongoing crisis in Syria; terrorist attacks around the world.
We have recorded the ongoing commitment of our members working with the Commission for Mission’s Justice and International Mission unit, to end human trafficking in the seafood and manufacturing industries in Thailand and Bangladesh; to support the exposure of secrecy jurisdictions which create tax havens for large corporations and to lobby government and corporations around gambling and alcohol abuse and addictions to name just a few.
Crosslight captures the work of the various UnitingCare agencies providing a diversity of services to marginalised, at risk or struggling people within our community. It tells stories of congregation life and mission. The Centre for Theology and Ministry has written monthly reflections which aim to both challenge our view on the world and to nurture our spirits.
However, perhaps the biggest test for a niche newspaper such as ourselves is the ability to capture the voice of its readership.
The last 16 months have been testing times for the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. To close a vibrant school was hard enough but then a decision was taken at the May Synod meeting to divest of property to repay the loan (plus provide additional funds for liquidity and recover risk management reserves).
This paper has published letters each month filled with pain, anger and despair. The people of the Uniting Church are hurting. How does Crosslight honour that voice, but somehow not do further damage to those who are grieving? How does Crosslight ensure it is not adding to the public damage inflicted on the reputation of this beloved church? How does it also honour the people who are diligently working to carry out the decisions of the Synod meeting in the face of both angry attack and gentle acceptance?
What role do you believe a church newspaper plays? How relevant is Crosslight to you in capturing news events and interpreting them within our faith context? Informing you about the life of the synod? Reflecting the voice of the members?
In the New Year, Crosslight would like to meet with small groups to hear their views. If you would like to participate in a group discussion please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also put up an online survey for you to fill in. We want to ensure that this newspaper is the newspaper of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and is entertaining, challenging, provocative, relevant and captures the spirit of God working in us and amongst us.
On behalf of the staff of Crosslight, I wish you and your family a joyous Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a safe New Year.