A new publishing day

By Russ Eanes | MennoMedia

From today’s news:

  • Book sales in the U.S. are down 9 percent.
  • Amazon reported that sales of e-books exceeded paper copies in the previous 12 months.
  • Apple exceeded all expectations by selling more than nine million tablets.
  • Smart phones will soon outsell PCs.

It’s a daunting, challenging and scary time to be in the media business today.

Advances in technology have brought additional challenges: information overload, electronic addictions, shortened attention spans. Through social and interactive media, everyone is now in the information and content creation business, and many expect that the content we now consume and create should be free, or nearly so.

Combine all that with a decline in both denominational loyalty and in church attendance, and you might also say it’s equally challenging today to be a ministry and agency of a church denomination.

Consider, then, MennoMedia, the newly merged entity created July 1 from Mennonite Publishing Network and Third Way Media. We are facing all of these challenges.

We are a non-profit multimedia company owned by the Mennonite churches in Canada and the U.S. We bring together the experience of more than a century in publishing—from print media to electronic media, including radio and film—in curriculum, periodicals and the Internet.

To some, we are a church ministry; to others, an institutional agency. Our constituents range from conservative to liberal, with worship styles from traditional to contemporary, from folks in plain dress to folks with tattoos and piercings. We represent two distinct, although not dissimilar, nationalities—Canada and the U.S—and serve people of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.

Whatever the background, for members of Mennonite Church Canada and MC U.S.A., we are your company, your ministry. You own us and we are accountable to you. We serve the church both in its Anabaptist witness and spiritual formation at a time when the need for both is great and the risks of being in both media and ministry are great.

Rather than shrink from the challenges I’ve mentioned, we at MennoMedia want to embrace them and recognize an even greater and more hopeful opportunity. As Anabaptists and Mennonites, we find ourselves at a unique moment in history, when there is a renewed interest in, and hunger for, the unique values that our tradition brings: peace, community, simplicity and a desire to follow Jesus in the totality of life. We have the opportunity to share these values with our culture and, indeed, with the whole world.

Recently, a church leader encouraged me, and all of us at the new company, to take risks—an encouragement I appreciated because the new organization we have formed via merger is in itself a big risk. When I read the Scriptures and study church history, I find much that is risky, and so I find us in good company. With the support and faith of our two denominations, and with a vision tempered by humility, we shall strive to create a top-notch media ministry/agency that brings an Anabaptist witness to the world.

Combining print, electronic, online, broadcast and digital capabilities, we can now produce content across a whole spectrum of new and emerging platforms. Our goal is for our constituents to see what we produce as being relevant to their life and faith in their particular context.

I feel privileged to collaborate with others in leading MennoMedia in our new beginning. We are a group of people with passion, experience and vision. We have melded together staff with many years of experience and wisdom, with a new, younger generation full of enthusiasm and fresh energy. We recognize the many challenges of faith, economics and technology in a rapidly changing culture and media environment. May we be responsive and relevant witnesses in our society while creating the resources you need to help you live faithfully.

MennoMedia publishes books through its Herald Press imprint; hosts the online Third Way Café; produces curriculum, periodicals and hymnals through Faith & Life Resources; produces Shaping Family Radio; creates award-winning TV documentaries through Third Way Media; and collaborates with Brethren Press to produce the Gather ’Round curriculum.

Russ Eanes is the new executive director of MennoMedia.

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