Newpaper's demise sparks sadness, challenge

6/7/2013

 Newpaper's demise sparks sadness, challenge

By ALICE M. SMITH  (Editor 2000-07)
       "It's a sad time for the church.  It's a sad day for me, and a sad day for you," summed up the Rev. Bill Holt when I called to get his thoughts about the United Methodist Reporter and the Wesleyan Christian Advocate no longer publishing. 
     The news of the Advocate's demise was gut-wrenchingly personal.  Even though I tried to tell myself, "It's not about you," the fact remains that almost a good chunk of my life was intensely tied to the Advocate. 
     Bill, now 93 and living with his wife Betty at Wesley Woods in Newnan, was the Advocate editor in 1983 who took a chance on hiring me to be director of a new organization called the Georgia Communications Council.  The council's office was in the Advocate suite in the UM Center in downtown Atlanta.
     Those friendships I made with the people who worked at the Advocate office from 1983 until I retired in June 2007 have been some of the strongest and most treasured friendships I have.  In fact, I was driving home after having lunch with two of those early staffers when I received the news from current editor Glenn Hannigan.  He asked me to write down some thoughts for the final edition.
     Where to begin?  I could talk about some of the more prominent stories I covered, or the five General Conferences, or the 25 North Georgia and 25 South Georgia annual conferences.  I could talk about the changes in communications as the church and society moved from a print-oriented culture to an electronic one.  I could talk about the United Methodists I came to know, church leaders and church members alike.   My favorite times were when I went to local churches and could be among their congregations.  This didn't happen as frequently as I would like, because we always had a small staff and a big state to cover (during all of my tenure, my position was statewide).
     The Advocate has been a mainstay of Georgia Methodism since 1837 (it became an independent publication from South Carolina in 1878), and the United Methodist Reporter since 1847.   But it's not just the longevity of these venerable institutions that is significant.  It's the fact that they inspired us, informed us and challenged us through good times and bad, the Advocate from a Georgia perspective and the Reporter from a national one.
     In my conversation with Bill, he pointed out that just as important as the dissemination of information is the source of the information.  United Methodists trusted the Reporter and the Advocate because they knew that those who prepared and published the newspapers were not only competent and skilled but also committed to the church.  In this day that is a key point to remember when an unbelievable amount of information is posted online, often anonymously.
     I know North Georgia Conference leaders value the importance of church members being informed, so I am sure they are already discussing what to do next.  Even though we have sophisticated, instantaneous ways to communicate now, there still has to be someone you trust gathering the information, putting it into readable form, and posting it online.
     What remains unchanged is our faith and the fact that God is in control.  I don't know what the future holds with regard to North Georgia communications, but I do know God will show us the way -- working, as God always does, with willing servants on the ground.
     Romans 8:28 tells us, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  We can trust in that promise.
 
 


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