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Quaker Media Conference

by Carl Stieren

You still have to have printer's ink in your veins - or perhaps pixels in your pocket - to be a Quaker publisher today. That was the message that 18 Quaker editors, publishers and readers learned at the conference at Quaker Hill, a conference center set in a large old house next door to Friends United Meeting headquarters and the FUM Bookstore on the outskirts of Richmond, Indiana. The conference, "Friends and their Media of Communication", reported some births and some deaths among Quaker media today. The death of The Evangelical Friend was not unique. "All the denominational magazines are under pressure and are declining," said Ben Richmond, Editor of Quaker Life. The conference was organized by David Edinger of the Center, and hosted by John Punshon of Earlham (author of A Short History of Quakerism, available from Quaker Book Service in Ottawa).

Initial attention circled around those from "the big three" - Kenneth Sutton of Friends Journal in Philadelphia, Ben Richmond and Johan Maurer from Quaker Life, in Richmond, IN, and Paul Anderson of George Fox College, Newberg, Oregon from The Evangelical Friend, which has ceased publication. Later, Friends listened to the stories of those from the smaller publications - Rhoda Gilman from St. Paul, Minnesota, explaining how the Quaker Universalist recently launched on online version of its magazine, distributed by email. Errol Hess of Bristol Tennessee, explained how the magazine of the Southeastern Yearly Meeting and Association carried the debate between Chattanooga Friend and historian Larry Ingle, who maintained that AFSC had lost almost all its roots among Friends, and other Friends who argued that AFSC was the still the expression of Friends' work and concerns. Anne-Marie Zilliacus, Editor of The Canadian Friend, and Carl Stieren, Peaceweb Co-ordinator, both attended. Carl made a presentation on Peaceweb and other Quaker publications on the Internet.

Tom Hamm, a history professor from Earlham, explained how Quaker magazine publishing had flourished during the time of the Hicksite-Orthodox split, and ebbed during quieter times. He outlined the trend away from publications selling shares (usually more subsidy certificates than growth shares) to organizationally-sponsored publications. Both The Canadian Friend and Ottawa Monthly Meeting's World Wide Web site, Peaceweb, are examples of organizationally-sponsored publications.

Today, the FGC, the FUM and the Evangelical branch of Friends each has about one-third of the 110,00 or so members of Quakers in the United States. The three publications, each corresponding to one branch of Friends, reported nearly ] equal circulations. Before it closed down, The Evangelical Friend (an EFI publication) had a circulation of about 7,000. Friends Journal (independent, with mostly FGC subscribers) has a circulation of around 9,000, and Quaker Life (an FUM publication) has a circulation of around 7,000.

Quaker publishing is not limited to magazines and the World Wide Web, however. The energetic Tom Farley of Palo Alto Meeting in California, a frequent contributor to the online discussion groups QUAKER-L and QUAKER-P, and publisher of an environmental journal, told about a Quaker science fiction writer. "Still Forms on Foxfield, by Joan Slonczewski, is about a planet colonized by Quakers, which runs its government in the forms of monthly meetings, quarterly meetings, and a yearly meeting," he told the group. Titles of works of feminist science fiction, including that of Joan Slonczewski, are listed online in a page maintained by Laura Quilter.

Reading the 18 different accounts of the conference will be quite interesting.


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Editor: Carl Stieren peaceweb@ottawa.net
Peace and Social Concerns Committee, Ottawa Monthly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends,
91A Fourth Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1S 2L1