By David Strand
The LCMS Communications department wants to thank all those who participated in a recent online survey gauging people’s views on Reporter, the Synod’s official monthly newspaper. More than 1,500 respondents took the survey.
We’re grateful that so many people were willing to complete this fairly extensive exercise. Fifteen hundred is a big number, an excellent sampling of a cross section of our church. It gives the survey’s findings a good deal of credence.
Pastors, teachers, other commissioned ministers, lay leaders and lay members were among the pool of respondents. Age, gender, community types (urban, rural, etc.) and geographic regions of the country were all well represented.
The survey offered respondents two pathways — one for those already familiar with Reporter and another for those who are not. In both cases, PDFs of a whole issue of the newspaper and two separate stories were provided.
Among the findings of the survey:
- Nearly three-quarters of all respondents claim that they stay informed about the LCMS via the print edition of Reporter. This number jumps to 83 percent when removing those who do not currently receive Reporter. Ranking second in terms of helping people “stay informed about the church” are district newsletters.
- Print is not dead, even among those who read online.
- “The LCMS response to contemporary issues” rated the highest in terms of story-type preferences. “Highlighting ministries of the LCMS nationally” rated second, followed by “Featuring congregations.”
- Story preferences were strongly influenced by the type of respondent (ordained, commissioned or lay). For example, pastors are keenly interested in stories about the seminaries, while commissioned ministers, not surprisingly, have a passion for “parochial schools.” Laypeople, meanwhile, expressed a desire to see more “narrative” pieces like editorials and movie reviews.
Clearly, we have a spectrum of interests out there. We also have a lot of commonalties. The survey gives us a sharper view of the collective and individual tastes of our readers. This will help us with story selection in the future.
In rating the quality of the newspaper itself, respondents said:
- They believe certain stories could stand to be a bit shorter.
- They appreciate the quality of writing — 85 percent calling it “excellent” or “good.”
- They think (by a margin of 87 percent to 13 percent) that Reporter’s presentation of the news is unbiased.
- They would be willing to share articles with others.
Overall (and there is much more to the survey than can be highlighted in this brief report), the survey said Reporter is viewed very well, but there is room for improvement.
There’s also room for circulation growth, particularly among laypeople. Current Reporter readership is largely professional church workers and congregational officers, who receive the newspaper for free. I believe there’s a contingent of laypeople in the church who would be willing to subscribe to Reporter for the sake of staying abreast of LCMS news and developments. In many cases, they just don’t know the newspaper exists.
This was one of the objectives of the survey — to see if there is interest on the part of more of our laity to receive this publication. We like to think there is. We like to think that, given a newspaper that’s seen as informative, objective and trustworthy, more of our people who love and care about their Synod would want to be a part of it.
David Strand (firstname.lastname@example.org) is executive director of LCMS Communications.
Posted Jan. 6, 2015