United Methodist Publication 'Reporter' Founded in 1840s To Close

A United Methodist not-for-profit publication that traces its roots back to the 19th century announced that they will be closing down by the end of the month.

UMR Communications and its main publication the United Methodist Reporter will stop operation, its final 26 employees out of work by Friday, May 31.

Sam Hodges, managing editor for the Reporter, told The Christian Post that the leading reason for the closure was a lack of financial resources.

"The short answer is we've run out of money. The reasons for that include the challenges facing print in the Internet age, as well as shrinkage of the UMC in the U.S. The UMC is growing in Africa," said Hodges.

"Another factor, maybe overlooked, is the desire by many church organizations to go paperless, in the interest of being or at least seeming 'green.' Every company closing has its own story, but those are the larger factors I would cite."

Hodges also told CP that the final print edition of the Reporter will be mailed out on Friday, June 7, along with some other works related to various UMC conferences and churches.

Founded in the 1840s, UMR Communications and the United Methodist Reporter have had a long history of providing communications media for Methodist communities.

UMRC states that it was in relation by previous ownership and covenant to seven United Methodist Annual Conferences, all of which are located in Texas.

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and author of a book on the history of American Methodism, told CP that he felt the news was "very sad."

"UMR was once a very influential independent reporting source on America's third largest religious body. It went to hundreds of thousands of homes and in the 1980s especially broke major stories exposing misdeeds and extremism by church agencies," said Tooley.

"There is no successor and no major independent reporting source for 7.5 million American United Methodists wanting news about their church. Instead, readers are resorting to hundreds of blogs that offer opinions but typically not hard reporting."

The United Methodist Reporter is not the first UMC publication to find themselves suffering from declining offline business.

Last month, the United Methodist Publishing House closed down the last of its brick-and-mortar Cokesbury stores, transferring their business efforts to online, telephone, and individual retail representatives.

When asked by CP if he felt that United Methodist publications were going extinct, Hodges of the Reporter said that he felt this was not the case.

"There's a lot of energy online (websites, blogs) and our website and Facebook traffic were growing steadily – meaning we were finding readers. The challenge was finding income," said Hodges.

"I strongly believe there's still a place for print in religious communications. But there are probably going to be more losers than winners for a while, until some new economic models emerge."

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