Taking the broad view
Rebranding the United Church Observer will help magazine reach wider audience, editor says
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This article was published 30/03/2019 (1454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It may be named after a Toronto subway station, but the new Christian magazine Broadview has a wider audience in mind.
Beginning next week, the award-winning United Church Observer becomes Broadview and hits the newsstands in several book, grocery and drugstore chains across Canada, editor and publisher Jocelyn Bell says.
“It’s a matter of trying to unlock the potential of what we’re doing here and getting it out to a wider audience,” Bell says of the new name and new distribution model.
Founded in 1829 as the Christian Guardian, the oldest continually published magazine in North America became the United Church Observer in 1939, 14 years after the formation of the United Church of Canada. Although it carries church news in addition to features and regular columns, it has operated independently of the denomination since 1986.
The new name reflects open-mindedness and inclusivity, while maintaining its identity as a left-leaning Christian publication, Bell says in a telephone interview from her Toronto office.
“We felt (the new name) would counteract the idea that religion could be closed and dogmatic.”
Bell hopes the new name, along with the tagline “spirituality, justice and ethical living,” might appeal to a wide range of readers, including the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd.
“We’re going after people who are progressive Christian and share those core values with us,” she says.
The renamed magazine will offer readers 16 more pages and a new design, but still include similar content, such as last month’s interview with former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, a story on addressing food waste, and a look at the precarious housing situation of people living in boats in Vancouver’s False Creek harbour. It will still carry death announcements of United Church clergy and some denominational news, and have an updated website.
That is welcome news to longtime reader Margaret McPherson of Winnipeg, a subscriber for the past five decades.
“I love the fact they cover all sorts of social issues we’re experiencing,” says McPherson, a member of Westworth United Church.
“It has a lot in it for a fairly small magazine.”
Bell says the 29,000 current Observer subscribers will continue to receive the magazine, with the only change being that the new magazine will be published 10 times a year instead 11, as it has been until now. The cost for a single issue is $6.99, with a yearly subscription running $30.
About 12 per cent of all subscribers live in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The changes were provoked by declining subscriptions and the recent closure of other denominational publications, such as the Presbyterian Record, which published its last issue in January 2017.
“We had a pretty good sense of what would happen if we did nothing,” says Bell, adding their business plan projects sustainability in three years.
Board member Bruce Faurschou of Winnipeg says the changes bring energy to the magazine and may attract more readers, as well as offering a perspective from the liberal side of Christianity.
“We might save the magazine and we might get the magazine beyond the United Church of Canada,” he says.
“I think it can give us good articles that can provoke thought among people who are spiritual.”
Bell says the revamp of the magazine reflects the current shift in the institutional church, including the United Church of Canada, which recently restructured its governing bodies by eliminating local presbyteries and creating new regional groupings.
“Obviously, the church is evolving and looking at the way they are doing business, and so are we,” she says.
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Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.