From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:09:03


                         By Julian Shipp 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Plagued by chronic financial deficits, "Presbyterian 
Survey" magazine was  recommended for termination by a task group of the 
General Assembly Council (GAC)  in November 1993. 
     But in February 1994 the council granted a reprieve and the 
128-year-old magazine survived to report a 1994 year-end surplus of nearly 
     Following the union of the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and the 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.) in 1983, "Survey" became the official 
publication of the new denomination. "A.D.," a publication of the United 
Presbyterian Church (USA), was discontinued shortly before the reunion. 
     "Survey" inherited the northern church's subscription list and offered 
a free, three-month subscription to each "A.D." subscriber along with the 
opportunity to become regular "Survey" readers. This strategy contributed 
to the magazine's subscription peak of 198,000 in 1986, according to Erica 
Bowie, manager of financial systems/subledger in the Corporate and 
Administrative Services office. 
     "At one point we were anticipating that we were going to be up to one 
quarter of a million subscribers," Bowie said. 
     But when the Presbyterian Publishing House, which housed the magazine 
until 1993, levied two subscription rate increases in 1986, subscriptions 
spiraled downward.  There are currently about 83,000 "Survey" subscribers.  
     The second rate increase occurred on Oct. 25, 1986, leaving prices at 
$6 for the every family plan (in which a church purchases a subscription 
for every active family that is a member of its congregation); $8.50 for 
the group plan; and $11 for the individual plan.  (Rates for the every 
family plan were lowered to $5.00 in June 1989.) 
     As churches struggled with dwindling financial resources and shrinking 
membership throughout the denomination, most found it difficult to afford 
the suddenly pricier every family plan.  
     "More than half of all our subscriptions come from the every household 
plan," said Catherine Cottingham, "Survey" managing editor.  Eva Stimson, 
associate editor, says, "And  really think [the double increase in 1986] is 
the main reason for the decrease in subscriptions at that time." 
     "Survey" lost money throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1986 the 
magazine lost  a whopping $289,605.  In 1988 the deficit was $28,692 with 
149,000 subscribers.  The following year, the deficit was $9,324 with 
135,000 subscribers. By 1993 the economic situation had worsened to the 
point that a recommendation to discontinue the magazine was issued by the 
Communication Task Group in November 1993. 
     Because of the unavailability of reliable financial figures and an 
unwillingness among GAC members to create a void  by terminating a 
publication, the CTG reversed its recommendation when it brought an amended 
report back to the council three months later. 
     "We kept  Survey' going in the end basically because we decided to 
keep what (publications) we have until something new is decided and to not 
leave a void in the interim," said the Rev. Bill Lancaster, a CTG member 
and associate for mission at Foothills Presbytery in Greenville, S.C. 
     A key element to the subsequential financial survival of "Presbyterian 
Survey," Cottingham said, was the decrease in staff from eight to three 
full-time and one part-time positions. 
     On the current staff are Cottingham; Eva G. Stimson, associate editor; 
and Linda C. Crittenden, part-time art director, and Tanga D. Algee, the 
magazine's administrative assistant. 
     The reduction in employees resulted in a greater workload for the 
remaining staff, but increased flexibility in the magazine's budget.  
     Cottingham said another significant factor in the magazine's financial 
turnaround is the fact that it no longer has to pay  overhead costs to 
Presbyterian Publishing House (PPH), since the magazine is no longer part 
of that organization.  
     PPH became an independent company, the Presbyterian Publishing 
Corporation, on Jan. 1, 1994, "Presbyterian Survey" became a new part of 
the GAC's Office of Communication. 
     Cottingham also credited loyal "Survey" readers for helping keep the 
magazine afloat. After word spread that the publication might be canceled, 
"Survey" received many letters of concern.  
     "[Our readers] are our backbone and we couldn't have done it without 
them," Cottingham said. 
                               # # # 

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   Web page: 


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