Saturday, March 28, 2009

Convention: Day 3

One Dynamite Panel
We began Friday morning with a panel of renowned journalists:
  • Rachel Zoll, Associated Press religion reporter
  • Michael Paulson, Boston Globe writer,  Pulitzer Prizer winner, three time Wilbur Award winner
  • John Yemma, Christian Science Monitor senior editor, former writer for Boston Globe
Ironically, today was the Christian Science Monitor's last day of print publication, ever, in its year history. Other connections: my mentor, Shirley Paulson, is a Christian Science practitioner, and that afternoon we toured the Christian Science headquarters.

Yemma commented on CSM's last day of print publication. He even admitted that it will be better to go online; the cost of publication leaves a bad carbon footprint. He very astutely pointed out that most people check Web sites like CNN because they are updated several times throughout the day. 

Zoll explained that because AP is a content provider, the recession is affecting it differently than it would a print publication. "We are trying to strengthen beat reporting," Zoll said. She said there are only TWO religion reporters for the entire United States. She works out of New York, while the other writes from Denver. She did point out several trends for religion communicators to watch out for:
  • Immigration - how immigrants are bringing their faith traditions or picking up new ones
  • Islam - how American Islam has an impact on the economy
  • Religion and politics
  • Decrease in denominations; growth of "general" Christian
Paulson said he feared that as newspapers dry up, democracy will be at stake -- we will be compromising objectivity. He admitted that the Boston Globe has more readers now than ever before -- but they're on the Web reading it for free instead of buying a newspaper. "It's a finance problem," Paulson said.

Yemma pointed out that news consumption is fragmented these days. CSM has over 3 million viewers a month, and in print the reporters end up "talking to themselves."

Paulson is a blog reader. He 107 of them everyday. He encourages religion communicators and bloggers to use blogs to tell reporters what's going on -- even to send an email. Plenty of stories are derived from "men on the street" offering up ideas. 

2.o Technologies
I was really looking forward to this session. Interestingly, it was the discussed that ensued during and after the workshop that I found most fascinating. My friend Sarai, the student at Garrett, said her church in Naperville is working with Fishhhook (remember my friend from my first post, Evan McBroom) to do some branding of the UMC church. We both then joined in discussion with RCC member Tim Frakes, who does video production for churches in the Chicago area.

New things I learned from the workshop to investigate:
  • Google Analytics
  • SEOs and keywords
  • Wikilocals
The workshop host, Deb Weiner, is the communications director for Unitarian Universalists. She mentioned the importance of RSS feeds,  keeping content updated and the benefits of a Content Management System. 

I intend to check out a few things she mentioned:, where you can apparently take a quiz and find out what faith background you are. One portion of information came from, "Media Myths and Realities: 2008 Media Usage Survey."

De-Rose Hinkhouse Luncheon & Awards
RCC has a long tradition of presenting awards to its members for the work they have done in their fields. The attendees had a luncheon at the historic Trinity Church in Boston's Copley Square. Some award winners included Samford University's public relations pieces, a Presbyterian Women's publication and others.

A Bit of Christian Science History (Mary Baker Eddy Library)
Having had little previous knowledge of the Christian Science denomination, I was in for a big surprise. We visited its headquarters, where the Mary Baker Eddy Library is located. Eddy was the founder of the church and has a sort of museum dedicated to her. There is also a pretty comprehensive library (open to the public!) of her hundreds of papers. She founded the church based on the concepts of using healing as a large part of the faith. One fascinating part of the tour included the Mapparium, the only stained-glass globe in the world.

Happy 80th Birthday, RCC!
Our evening event was one big birthday celebration for RCC, which began in 1929, making it the oldest public relations organization ever to exist. During this time, I got to chat a bit with documentarian Dr. Jack Shaheen, from last night's "Reel Bad Arabs." He and his wife live on Hilton Head Island. After chatting with them, the group had cake and even sang "Happy Birthday" to RCC!

The Bostonian Experience
And, at end the evening, my peers and I ventured to Inman Square and enjoyed each other's company at McCowsky's. Tiffany, another student, lives near Harvard and so joined up with us. Great way to end the night.


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