Generous faith groups fund more religious journalism

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The Winnipeg Free Press is one of the last papers left in the country to have a faith page, a commitment that ensures we are part of the discussion on issues that not only shape the lives of many of our readers, but also our society.

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Opinion

The Winnipeg Free Press is one of the last papers left in the country to have a faith page, a commitment that ensures we are part of the discussion on issues that not only shape the lives of many of our readers, but also our society.

And since 2019, we have published even more faith coverage, driven largely by the faith that members of our community have in the Free Press.

John Longhurst

With support from the local faith community, since 2019 we have published 486 articles about faith in the print version of the paper and online (to the end of February 2021).

To make this happen, the arrangement with local faith groups was simple: if you value faith coverage in your newspaper and you want to see more — help us do more.

Over the past two years they have contributed more than $50,000, money we have used to fund coverage of religion beyond what is typically found on Saturday’s faith page. The collection plate that has been passed around has seen donations from all corners of our city’s faith community.

We’ve been blessed with pledges from Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is and Buddhists — see the sidebar of this story for a full list of contributors. We pray more will join us as this new initiative moves forward.

The money raised will allow us to make more use of the reporting skills of John Longhurst and Brenda Suderman, two well-regarded journalists who have written extensively on religion for the Free Press over the past two decades. All our faith-related stories will be in front of our paywall, enabling as many people as possible to read for free what we publish. And just to be clear, the money we receive comes with no strings attached that will limit or influence how we cover faith issues.

There is freedom of religion in our country just as there is freedom of the press. Those are rights to cherish. But this partnership does more than simply cherish, as it will help sustain both.

“In today’s world, [the work of journalists] is, in every sense, not just a job; it is a mission,” Pope Francis wrote in a message that stressed the importance of reporters in combating fake news in today’s world.

Brenda Suderman

“Your free and responsible voice is fundamental for the growth of any society that wants to be called democratic, so that a continuous exchange of ideas and a profitable debate based on real and correctly reported facts are assured.”

The Free Press has been in the business of real and correctly reported facts since 1872. But as we have all seen in recent years, that business model as it currently exists is not economically sustainable. By showing faith in our role in Winnipeg, the local faith community has has created a revenue stream that breaks new ground for newspapers in Canada.

In exchange, our reporting mission ensures a greater understanding of what is really happening within our faith community. We get at misrepresentations of religion that are frequently the root of racism. We provide a better understanding of the religious diversity that should be seen as a sign of strength in our community. And we are doing a better job of recognizing how religion is embedded in the everyday experience of our city, our province and our country.

On behalf of the Free Press, I want to thank the churches, the places of worship and the religious for believing in the journalistic mission of our newsroom. And I encourage our readers — those of faith and those of little faith — to share your thoughts with me as we expand our coverage of religion.

Paul Samyn is the Free Press editor

paul.samyn@freepress.mb.ca

@paulsamyn

The Free Press is committed to covering faith in Manitoba. If you appreciate that coverage, help us do more! Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow us to deepen our reporting about faith in the province. Thanks! BECOME A FAITH JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Paul Samyn

Paul Samyn
Editor

Paul Samyn has been part of the Free Press newsroom for more than a quarter century, working his way up after starting as a rookie reporter in 1988.

History

Updated on Thursday, March 11, 2021 11:06 AM CST: Adds update on project's results so far.

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The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.

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