After a long financial struggle, the Wesleyan Christian Advocate, the 172-year-old newspaper of the North and South Georgia Conferences, will cease publication within the next six months.
The paper, however, may continue in a different form as part of Texas-based UMR Communications, publisher of the UM Reporter, owner of the UM Portal web site, and parent company of Lumicon Productions.
The Advocate has the story in its Feb. 6 edition:
Faced with increasing costs and decreasing revenues, the Board of the Advocate voted unanimously at a called meeting on January 15, 2009, to close the Advocate and cease publication prior to the 2009 Annual Conferences….
Once the decision was made to cease publishing as a stand-alone paper, the Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson, editor of the Advocate… contacted Sarah Wilke, CEO of [UMR Communications].
[Wilke] immediately expressed an interest in working with the Advocate to ensure its continued existence. She flew to Atlanta and met with Nelson, [North Georgia] Bishop [Mike] Watson, and several members of the North Georgia conference staff. She is trying to set up similar meetings in South Georgia.
Wilke is primarily interested because there is… an established subscriber base in Georgia. “Several conferences which eliminated print communications several years ago, are now asking us to create a publication for them. This is much more difficult and more costly once you’ve lost that base,” [she said]….
The Advocate generates [more than] $300,000 annually in revenue, not counting… grants from the conferences. Unfortunately, current expenses exceed $400,000, [with] most of that deficit [being] made up by the grants from the two conferences….
[If UMR Communications were to take] over most of the administrative functions of the paper, thereby reducing the staff to only one person to write, collect, and edit the local stories, the expenses would drop below the $300,000 mark….
If the two conferences and the Reporter can reach an agreement, some changes [in staffing and publication] may occur in the next few months, but it will take until the conferences meet in June before the transition is complete.
“The good news,” according to Nelson, “is that we would be able to keep our name, continue our 172-year tradition, and continue to keep our members informed. Plus keep our Sunday school lessons, our Georgia columnists, our letters to the editor, [and] our job postings.”
UMR Communications currently publishes newspapers for 16 UM conferences, including Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Western Pennsylvania.