Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Life with ENS

I don't think I've told this story before.

Back in the summer of 2003, I was stunned and delighted when TEC consented to the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. That's when I became addicted to Episcopal/Anglican news. But I didn't know anything about the blogosphere then. I didn't even know it existed. As fall approached (with Gene's consecration scheduled for November), I shot off an angry note to the director of the Episcopal News Service, asking why the heck ENS wasn't keeping folks like me informed. I yearned for news, but ENS wasn't speaking the name of Gene Robinson.

An ENS staffer forwarded my message to somebody who forwarded my message. Soon thereafter, another Episcopal journalist contacted me. She told me that if I wanted to keep abreast of the news on that topic, I should go to David Virtue's site. As it happened, I had Barber's Adagio for Strings playing in the background. Alas, at that time, Virtue was the only one carrying regular (daily) updates and aggregating news about the Anglican Communion. On her recommendation, with Barber's Adagio playing in my ears, I went off to Virtue's site. I spent many hours there, clicking story after story and reading all the comments. I wept. The hatred and venom I saw there opened my eyes. I had no idea until that day that some "Anglicans" hated me/us so much. [I put "Anglicans" in quotation marks because most of the folks who comment at Virtue's site aren't members of the Episcopal Church or of any church in communion with Canterbury.]

But at least he was carrying news about the event and linking to analyses of the Robinson consecration. That's more than ENS was doing back in 2003.

Fortunately, when I read Virtue's site, I found links to some of the people he hates: Mark Harris and Father Jake. I went to their sites, and I felt like a thirsty woman finding water at last. Mark is still reporting and analyzing. Sadly, Father Jake left the stage last week. Their sites led me to other nourishing sites. And thus I entered the blogosphere.

Finally, in the summer of 2006, I was moved to create my own blog here. I was frustrated that the Episcopal Church was not getting its own news out. I even helped to create The Episcopal Majority – another site dedicated to getting out the good news about the Episcopal Church and its orthodoxy. Unfortunately, at that time, Presiding Bishop Griswold didn't seem willing to let Episcopal News Service do the job they were qualified to do. A part of our mission at The Episcopal Majority was to combat the propaganda from the "right" – a job that ENS seemed unwilling or unable to do at that time.

Then Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as our Presiding Bishop. It seemed that she finally set the journalists free to do their jobs. For a couple of years, we had real news stories and real journalism coming from the church. They did investigative journalism, and they were willing to name the lies that were being hurled against our church. My friends at The Episcopal Majority felt so comfortable that we closed up shop. We believed that TEC was going to support real journalism.

But sometime in the last couple of months, all that seems to have changed. EpiScope is no longer a relevant news source. All they do is carry TEC press releases. Neither is ENS relevant. I've changed my mail settings so that "news" from ENS goes directly to my "Trash" folder. Nothing of substance is coming from them anymore. That makes me very, very sad.

What happened?? I am truly perplexed. I understand that ENS under Bishop Griswold was not really a journalistic enterprise. In the first couple of years under Jefferts Schori, it seemed that ENS had been freed to do the journalistic work they can do. …. But sometime in the last couple or three months, it seems to have changed back again. I can no longer count on ENS to give us news. Instead, they give us fluff pieces like this one. Or we get silly "news" reports like this one, where ENS says they'll cover Lambeth. Duh! Would CBS issue a news release saying they'll cover the G8 conference?? Of course they wouldn't. But that seems to be the depth to which ENS has again stooped.

I've written about this before. I am truly dismayed that now – when we most desperately need real journalists working at TEC – they seem to have stuffed gags in their mouths. What the heck is going on? With Lambeth approaching, whom do you trust to provide news and analysis?

I'd like to hear what you all are thinking about TEC/ENS coverage of the news as we move toward Lambeth. Talk to me.

4 Comments:

OpenID akhf said...

Sad-- ENS has become Empty News Service

7/09/2008 10:24 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

That's how it seems to me too, AKHF. Would you talk more about why it seems that way to you?

7/09/2008 10:31 PM  
Blogger Malcolm+ said...

Seems like the Episcopal Church (and most churches) need both real journalists on their ecclesiastical papers and real communications professionals in their communications offices.

As an accredited PR guy, I despair, at times. When we elected a bishop a couple of years ago, I was surprised to see no coverage - even in the bottom inside quarter of page G16 - in the paper the following Monday.

Turns out we hadn't bothered to issue a news release.

Well, we now have a diocesan communications committee - complete with four communicatios professionals - at my initiative and with the bishop's blessing. We're working on fixing our ongoing website woes. And the bishop even has a blog now (bishopgreg.blogspot.com).

The diocese issued communications / media relations guidelines in the light of anticipated media interest over the summer establishing who can speak to the media on behalf of the diocese, and who to call for commuications guidance on Lambeth or other issues.

It's a start.

7/10/2008 1:21 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Malcolm. I understand ENS needs to be a "house organ." No problem with that. My disappointment is that nobody at ENS seems to be doing Real Journalism now. Maybe I'm expecting (or hoping for) too much.

7/10/2008 9:10 PM  

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