What's up at Episcopal News Service?

Poke around in Episcopal precincts on Facebook and you quickly learn that folks have portions of the church’s budget that are of particular interest to them. One of the line items I always look at is Episcopal News Service. Although funded by the church, ENS makes an effort to report objectively on the church’s affairs. And if, in the end, we are all compromised in some way by our economic self-interest, ENS endeavors to treat all parties fairly, and remains a place where one can usually get all sides of whatever story is unfolding in the church.

I would hate to see ENS lose one of the three reporters it currently employs, but that is a plausible interpretation of the comment at line 790 of the line by line budget analysis released late Friday afternoon by the Office of Public Affairs.

In explaining that ENS’s budget was reduced from $1,346,605 last triennium to $1,097,193 this triennium, Chief Operating Officer Bishop Stacy Sauls and Treasurer Kurt Barnes wrote: “Former print news business staff were eliminated. Additional staff reductions anticipated. Estimate for ongoing staff assumes inflation and medical cost increases and a staff reduction.”

The possibility of a staff reduction is not mentioned in the line by line budget that was approved by Executive Council, but the figures are the same as those in the budget released on Friday. Curiously, the council said: “You will notice significant investment in the ministry of Communications, including the Episcopal News Service, as a primary resource for Evangelism and to ensure Episcopalians everywhere have the information they need to create the networks necessary to do the work of mission.”

So I am wondering both whether someone at ENS is going to lose his or her job, and whether they learned of this possibility by reading a line by line budget commentary.

Comments (5)

Significant investment by cutting staff? Sort of a mixed message. Those news stories aren't going to write themselves...

Did you ask Anne Rudig? What did she say about the budget and staffing levels?

Scott, given the way the budget has come together, I am reluctant to assume any particular person has the answer to any given question.

Back in the day, ENS had a Director, a succession of Deputies (of which I was one), one staff assistant, whatever freelancers could be persuaded to contribute (for a small fee), and the kindness of diocesan communicators. This looks like a step back to that model--without the staff assistant. Of course, in the Solheim days ENS mailed a printed news packet to subscribers once every two weeks or so. The interwebs are a much hungrier newsbeast that demands daily and sometimes hourly feeding. However, when contemplating the ways of the Church, always remember: "Your system is perfectly designed to achieve the result you are getting."

Jim wrote, "Scott, given the way the budget has come together, I am reluctant to assume any particular person has the answer to any given question."

That's a good point. I wonder if we can expect an unfunded resolution to come to the floor requiring a minimum level of staffing at ENS.

I, for one, believe that the communications infrastructure of our church is vitally important. We need to get news out there. Stories of successes and failures both need to be heard. We need good places for serious discussion and debate (one of the strengths of the Cafe, of course) and we need a diversity of editorial voices. And as we work to dismantle the centralization, we need a single place to find out what the many scattered networks are doing.

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