From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Task Force Says to Keep "Monday Morning," Eliminate "THE NEWS"
04 May 1996 20:51:51
96014 Task Force Says to Keep "Monday Morning," Eliminate "THE NEWS"
by Alexa Smith
ATLANTA--Recommendations to continue "Monday Morning" magazine on a
subscription-only basis and to cease publication of "THE NEWS of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" will be made to the General Assembly Council
at its February meeting by its Publications Task Force.
The task force, which met Jan. 4-6 here, also urged the Council to
continue exploring the possibilities for the future development of an
In the meantime, the task force is urging expanded distribution of
"NEWS BRIEFS" to include clerks of session and associate pastors in every
church (it currently goes to "pastor/head of staff") and the sending of
"Presbyterians Today," augmented by a special "leadership section," free to
every sitting elder four times each year
The GAC will vote on the recommendations during its Feb. 21-25 meeting
If approved, the changes could free up $209,054 from the tabloid's
budget and $155,052 total from the per capita and mission budgets for
publication of "Monday Morning" to pay for new and expanded activities
within the Office of Communication. Those include programming in
electronic communications, projects within the Church and Public Relations
Office and financial support for "Presbyterians Today."
"I don't realistically see the possibility of doing everything we've
done in the past and things we're asked to do for the future," said Gary W.
Luhr, director of the Office of Communication. His recommendations to the
Council last fall to stop publishing both "THE NEWS" and "Monday Morning"
spawned the task force's study.
"A lot of these things we need to be doing we're actually charged to
do. ... But we're limited by budgetary restraints. Priority setting needs
to happen because the dollars only stretch so far," said Luhr.
The 1995 budget for the Office of Communication was $2,737,253.
"Monday Morning" and "Presbyterians Today" generated revenue through
subscriptions and advertising, but not enough to cover their expenses.
Both publications continue to be underwritten by per capita dollars, with
"Presbyterians Today" anticipating an estimated $200,000 deficit for 1996,
after losing about $100,000 in 1995. "Monday Morning" is reporting a
slight deficit for 1995 but is expecting to come out $56,000 ahead in 1996,
due to new contracts for printing and formatting the magazine.
What consumed much of the task force's thinking was how to reach
elders if "THE NEWS" -- the only Office of Communication publication
designed primarily for elders -- is eliminated, since not all pastors
circulate "NEWS BRIEFS" to session members.
"We need to continue something that goes to sitting elders," said
task force chair the Rev. Hugh Burroughs of Santa Monica, Calif., who said
the decision to insert a special quarterly in-depth analysis section into
"Presbyterians Today" for the denomination's 118,000 elders is a compromise
the task force is willing to accept for now. The magazine, too, is
undergoing an evaluation of its finances and has launched a new promotional
campaign to attract more subscribers.
The quarterly insert may cost the Office of Communication as much as a
quarter of a million dollars, according to Steve Moulton, associate for
administration, who has been assigned the task of running a cost analysis
on all the recommendations.
Sending "NEWS BRIEFS" to clerks of session and associate pastors is
the recommended starting point for further expanding its circulation
(currently at 15,000) -- with the hope of eventually including Christian
educators and extra-parish clergy in the mailings. Burroughs pushed for
the packet to include information in its "notes" section weekly on the
General Assembly's four mission priorities and new initiatives.
An array of options surfaced about how to fund continuation of "Monday
Morning," including giving it to the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation.
Task force member the Rev. John Coffin argued that "Monday Morning" is the
only denominational publication that "lets the church talk back to you."
And, he argued, it would be "politically unwise" to halt it.
Though the group agreed the "quality of exchange" is sometimes
questionable in "Monday Morning," the consensus was that it ought to be
given a chance to continue -- on a self-sustaining basis. The group is
recommending that the Office of Communication review the publication
schedule of "Monday Morning" and provide "minor editorial enhancement" for
the magazine, such as soliciting balanced opinion pieces as full-time
editors have done in the magazine's past.
The magazine currently has no full-time editor.
A 1992 General Assembly Commissioners' Resolution was referred to the
task force. It instructs the magazine's advisory committee (which no
longer exists due to 1993's restructure) to study alternative methods of
funding "Monday Morning" so it may be mailed free to all clergy, not just
some. Another resolution referred to the task force asked that no clergy
get subscriptions subsidized by mission or per capita budgets. "It's a
justice issue," said the Rev. Daniel Massie of Kingsport, Tenn. "We don't
have the money to give it to everybody."
The group also discussed the possibility that the Board of Pensions
may cease its practice of paying for complimentary subscriptions to "Monday
Morning" for retired pastors, a cost-savings debate that has taken place at
Board of Pensions meetings several times in the past few years. The Office
of the General Assembly has historically paid for parish clergy
subscriptions to the magazine.
Funding to run a pilot project marketing "Presbyterians Today" as an
every-household publication in at least three presbyteries is also to be
considered by the Office of Communication, the task force was told. The
project is designed in part to test whether there is interest among
Presbyterians in an every-household journal.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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