Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goodbye Gazette?

We're coming round to the time of year when my subscription to the Church of Ireland Gazette is due. This year, though, I'm seriously thinking about not renewing my subscription. Could it be goodbye to the Gazette?

For many years I've been an avid reader of the Gazette. At a time in Dromore, there were only two copies came into the newsagents - one for the rector and one for me. It was an amazing source of information on the Church of Ireland beyond my parochial boundaries. I kept up to date on the events in exotic places like Clogher or Cork, Cloyne and Ross. I tracked clergy movements as appointments were made and retirements notified. The letters were infuriating and inspiring - sometimes both. At home home (if that makes sense), there were lever arch files stuffed full of back copies of the Gazette, carefully kept in order - now consigned to the recycling - because who really needs to look back at an old copy of the Gazette from the 1990s?

In recent times the Gazette has modernised its production. Paper copies still exist for some people, but for most, the Gazette entered the digital age. On a Tuesday morning the latest copy of the Gazette appears on my computer screen for my weekly fix of Irish Anglican news. I'll flick through it, read a couple of articles, check who has been appointed where and that's me done.

The way we consume news has changed, leading to challenges for the national daily newspapers and the local weeklies. The same challenge is facing the Gazette in the days of digital news and rss feeds. A high proportion of the Gazette's filler comes from press releases and news items which have already appeared in the previous couple of weeks on the Church of Ireland's news page, or from one of the diocesan news feeds. For that reason, the news in the Gazette isn't news anymore.

I tend not to bother reading the columns or book reviews. Occasionally there is a particularly heretical column highlighted by others which I'll read. The letters page seems to go round again and again with the same old stuff - retired rectors giving current ones stick for not doing their jobs the way they used to; researchers looking for information; and the odd tussle about the latest issue.

So is it really worth the money when I'm only interested in the appointments section, to see who is moving where? I'm sure if it affected me directly I'd hear soon enough, and if not, it probably doesn't matter.

I considered it fleetingly last year. This year it's looking more likely. After all this time, it could indeed be goodbye to the Gazette.

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