Effective communication in Newslink & Parish Newsletters – Notes by Joc Sanders, Newslink editor
The primary objective of Newslink is to be a channel of communication for all in our diocesan family of faith, serving to bind the diocese together. To achieve this objective, we give space for people to tell others their news and views, including:
Each group and union (and Methodist circuit),
Each diocesan organisation (eg Mothers’ Union, GFS, Boys’ brigade, Youth Council, Children’s Ministry Network, Safeguarding Trust, Guild of Diocesan Readers, etc),
Each diocesan school,
Letters to the editor.
Newslink also seeks to provide news of diocesan events and the wider Church, such as:
A diocesan calendar looking 2 months ahead,
Reports of Institutions, Synods, significant diocesan events, news from central Church.
Newslink also seeks to promote readers’ spiritual growth by commissioning feature articles, such as
• A regular prayer corner,
‘View from the Pew’,
Commissioned reflective and spiritual articles,
Newslink is also a journal of record. Copies are lodged with the RCB Library and at copyright libraries.
The target audience for Newslink is ordinary parishioners in the pews. It would not exist without them, they pay for it through their subscriptions, and we do our best to see the magazine through their eyes and make it attractive for them. I think what interests them most are:
News and photos of family and friends in neighbouring parishes,
News and photos of children and grandchildren in schools,
Articles which reflect and stimulate their spirituality.
Newslink is also dependent on our hardworking volunteer pew distributors, who have the difficult task of asking subscribers for money, and passing copies out to subscribers. We could not do without their ministry of service.
Newslink is managed by a volunteer editorial team, currently consisting of Joc Sanders as editor and Deborah Powell and Lawson Kirkpatrick as assistant editors. This means that we can share the load and cover holidays and sick absence.
Lawson Kirkpatrick also serves as Treasurer, an important role as Newslink has a turnover of more than €25,000. The team is accountable to Diocesan Council and we provide a report and certified accounts to Diocesan Synod. It is Newslink policy to break even in the medium term and not require subsidy from diocesan funds.
Advertising income enables Newslink to break even while keeping subscriptions down – it would be great if we could have more of it! Could you recruit a new advertiser from your parish?
Publishing process and timelines
There are 10 issues a year – monthly, except for August and January, timed to be on the pews for the 1st Sunday.
The publishing schedule is usually as follows:
Friday before 2nd to last Sunday – deadline warning to regular contributors
Friday before next to last Sunday – deadline for copy from contributors, unless extension agreed
Editorial team sub-editing
Tuesday before last Sunday – all copy to printers for design & layout
Thursday before last Sunday – PDF proofs from printers
Friday am before last Sunday – final corrections made to proof
Week before 1st Sunday – printing and distribution
On the pews – 1st Sunday
The timeline for sub-editing is quite tight, so late copy causes real problems. Please do your best to meet the deadline – we do give you a week’s warning, but the editor finds he must chase a small number of regular offenders every month! If you know you can’t, do let the editor know asap, and he will if possible grant an extension. Otherwise we do not guarantee to print your copy. Waiting for late news or confirmation of information is not an acceptable reason for late submission – please send in what you have on time, with a note that you may make late changes. Minor late changes/additions can usually be made in proof up to the Thursday after the deadline.
We can accept copy in MS Word or as text in email messages, but other formats such as ODT give problems.
Do use a spell-checker to remove typos before submitting copy.
Use headings/subheadings to group related paragraphs.
Photos are always welcome. They break up large blocks of text, and people like to see them. But please:
Send them as email attachments, do not embed them in Word files, which reduces their resolution to the point where they may be unusable.
Check photos are high enough resolution to print – ideally at least 200kb
Provide a suggested caption.
Never use the full name of a child with a photo in a way that could identify her/him.
See diocesan Safeguarding guidance on photographs of children:
The standard allowance for notes is 500 words + 2 photos. A full page in Newslink is around 1,000 words, and a landscape format photo in Newslink is worth 125 words (portrait format is almost twice that). We try to be flexible, but if your copy is too far outside these limits we may cut it, and we reserve the right to return it for you to cut it. If there is a special reason why you need more space, do contact the editor to discuss it in advance – we may be able to place it as a separate feature article.
Effective communication through Newslink
The editor does not want to constrain what you want to say in Newslink – though we do subedit for spelling, punctuation, grammar and sense. You can help us by reading through what you write and using a spell checker.
As with any other writing, it is good to consider 2 things before you put pen to paper: Who is your audience? What message do you want them to receive?
The Newslink audience is not your parish or organisation – though they will surely read it to see what you are saying about them to their family, friends and others elsewhere. Your audience is the generality of Newslink readers in parishes up and down the diocese, so consider carefully whether an item might be more appropriate for your Parish Newsletter. Some thoughts:
Is it a waste of space to list all your regular services? These might be better listed in your Parish Newsletter or website, with only special services or events of wider interest to the diocese noted in Newslink.
Newslink readers like to see brief reports of christenings and marriages of people they might know. If possible include photos – just as in any local newspaper, photos of people sell copies!
Similarly, people value notes of funerals, but be aware of the danger of over-long obituaries. The editor does not want the magazine to be filled with obituaries, suggesting our church is dying, and if you say a lot about one, there will be pressure to do so for others.
There may be times when you decide it is appropriate to include a difficult or negative message. Always be sensitive to the feelings of others. But surely most of the time you will want to convey positive messages. Mission and outreach to the wider community, and ecumenical sharing, are important to our Christian life, so consider reporting what your parish is doing in these areas, to encourage and inspire others. Giving recognition to groups or individuals who deserve it also gives a positive message.
It is good to strike a balance between reporting what has been and anticipating what is to come. But be aware of the publishing schedule – it annoys people to read of events as happening in the future if they have already occurred before the issue comes out – consider saying something like, ‘X will have happened by the time you read this – see more in the next issue’.
The editor does not want to constrain healthy debate about contentious issues. Newslink columns are open to all through letters to the editor, at the editor’s discretion. But be aware that letter writers must identify themselves and their parish, and the editor will discuss letters dealing with parish/circuit matters with the minister concerned.
If your regular news does not fill the space allowed you, you might consider adding a short reflection on faith, the world, or current events designed to interest readers.
Effective communication through Parish Newsletters – Discussion