Episcopal publications received many of the top awards from the Associated Church Press at the annual meeting at a Baptist retreat center near Birmingham, Alabama, April 7-10.
Episcopal Life received a total of 11 awards, including the top award 'best in class' in the category for national and international newspapers. Also receiving first place awards were the Witness magazine, the Episcopal New Yorker, and Hi-Lites, a newsletter for St. Francis Academy in Salina, Kansas.
Anglican Advance (Diocese of Chicago) and Episcopal News Service received second place awards for 'best in class.'
The other awards for Episcopal Life included Awards of Excellence (first place) for front page, and humor for a cartoon and Awards of Merit (second place) theme issue, devotional/inspirational article, newspaper graphics and several honorable mentions.
In addition to its award as the top newsletter, Hi-Lites received Awards of Excellence in the categories for departments, graphics and a theme issue, as well as Awards of Merit for a news story, in-depth coverage and a column.
The Witness magazine received an Award of Excellence for a cover, Awards of Merit for its critical review section and for a feature article.
In addition to placing first as a regional newspaper, the Episcopal New Yorker (Diocese of New York) received an Award of Excellence for an interview and several honorable mentions. The Central Florida Episcopalian and Cathedral Age (Washington National Cathedral) received Awards of Excellence for photography. Anglican Advance was given an Award of Excellence for a column and ENS received an Award of Excellence for a news story.
The Anglican Journal of Canada received an Award of Merit in the category for departments.
The contest drew 1,207 entries from 87 publications in the ACP, an 86-year-old professional association of 175 members with a combined circulation of over 28 million. (Complete results available at http://www.theacp.org/)
First amendment doomed?
In his provocative keynote on 'The Religious Press in the Public Square,' Charles Overby, chairman of the Freedom Foundation, said that the First Amendment of the Constitution 'is in trouble--and that means you are in trouble.'
He called the First Amendment 'a very fragile document--and there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.' Yet he said that 'it will not survive this century unless the public is educated.' Recent polls done for the Freedom Foundation, an independent foundation dedicated to the First Amendment and media issues, reveal that many Americans are objecting to what they perceive as 'unbridled freedoms,' expressing a willingness to give up some basic freedoms for more security. For example, almost 40 percent say that the First Amendment goes too far--double the percentage of the previous year.
'We have our work cut out for us,' Overby said when 46 percent of Americans think that the press has too much freedom. 'That should be sobering to all journalists.' He said that America is the most religiously diverse nation of earth with over 3,000 recognized religious groups. 'Yet many insist that we are a Christian nation.'
He said that the Freedom Forum is convinced that it is important to teach about religion and its role in the life of the nation but is opposed to prayer in public schools or posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings, regarding them as attempts to 'secularize' religion. 'We don't need our government to tell us what to do in the realm of religion,' he said. He challenged the church communicators to be more diligent in exploring the issues, using their considerable influence in more effective ways. 'Your job is more important than it has been before…even though it is being minimized by many religious leaders,' he added. Too often those leaders are 'confused about the issues--they need more light and less heat.'
An American sickness
The struggle for civil rights in Birmingham was addressed by several speakers at the convention. 'Most people remember Bombingham--Bull Conner and firehouses, dogs attacking kids. And that's part of our history,' said Bob Terry, president of the ACP in his introduction for Dr. Odessa Woolfolk, a veteran of the civil rights struggle and a founder of the Civil Rights Institute in downtown Birmingham.
'Alabama is a much better place than most people think,' she said in arguing that the story in Birmingham has its own set of villains and heroes. The problem was that 'good people were silent and bad people took over' yet she said that Birmingham was 'a city of perpetual promise,' a city where 'race has always been an issue.' As long as blacks stayed in their place, there was no problem, she noted.
In his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about how slow the churches were to respond to the situation. Many local clergy were opposed to his non-violent approach to change.
Today, Woolfolk said, there is 'more interracial dialogue than just about anywhere else in America…. We are willing to talk about racial justice and how we can live together. Birmingham is like the rest of America now, trying to wrestle with the same issues,' she said. Although the situation has changed for the better, 'racial inequality is still an American sickness.'