The 2015 Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) conference exhibited some very practical sessions for the 47 delegates who attended from across Australia and New Zealand. Meeting in Brisbane last weekend, there were people representing Christian publications from Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and six from New Zealand.
There were several very practical sessions, and first off the rank was Dr John Harrison the Journalism Program Director at the University of Queensland whose credits are remarkable. The key word for on-line presentation is 'design' – in practical terms it superimposes itself upon everything else.
He spoke of the trend to news sources from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name three. The on-line news trends in Australia was to News.com, SMH, ABC, DailyMail, Guardian and yet many of these were now being sourced by mobile phones.
He called upon the delegates to think laterally with on-line and was pleased to use the example of New Life, started in 1936 and now morphed into an on-line publication with a greater readership than every before. Likewise John Harrison noted that there are more and more such singular emphasis on-line publications. New Life is evangelical and has a focus on Australian evangelical ministries and missionaries around the world.
But primarily his focus was on 'design being the feature element for on-line publications. It is to design that the next phase of on-line presentation will determine outcomes. He also addressed new ideas such as wearables, google glass, embedded in clothing, invasive possibilities. He suggested the Apple watch phone (generic) was a blink of an eye away.
The final practical sessions on Saturday afternoon came from Heritage HM on the visual connection, editorial independence with Penny Mulvey and Rohan Salmond and handling the flood of information led by Ros Marsden.
All three were spirited. The Heritage HM – promoting family films and DVD and gave much information on what was available in the market place. Di Tunnington exclaimed they are constantly looking for those willing to write and publish reviews.
Penny Mulvey and Rohan Salmond's session on editorial independence in relation to freedom of the press saw avid conservation on this controversy – it was well attended and discussed.
Ros Marsden had up on the big screen in relation to the flood of information and even had a small group session running on multi-media platforms with a specific story as a challenge to bring some resolution. There were many surprising outcomes from the breakout groups.
Roland Ashby and The Melbourne Anglican
Publication of the Year
CrossLight – Uniting Church of Victoria and Tasmania
Specific Categories of Awards with Gold, Sliver and Bronze
Special New Zealand Award
Julie Belding stepping down after 9 years as the New Zealand ARPA Vice President.
Inaugural Ramon Williams Youth Scholarship – joint winners
Marco Cessarelli (Perth), Emelie Ng (Brisbane)
Numbers way down
The numbers were way down this year even taking into account the Catholic Press Association who are meeting in Broome Western Australia – in most years they meet one after the other with a cross over lunch and some stay on for ARPA which is a combined 'religious press' of both Protestants and Catholics.
However there is an unmistakable philosophical movement toward the Catholic Press Association, perhaps even combining the annual gatherings. What was obvious to all, is a practical matter - 47 delegates becomes problematic with the high cost of hotel accommodation and conference venue.
Many in the evangelical wing of the Protestant Christian press want to retain their ARPA participation for many good reasons, but realise they are on a different trajectory with 'winning the lost' as a priority for their publication literature. This may mean establishing something for themselves aiming at evangelical missionary on-line publications and the huge number of evangelical bloggers.
This evangelical ethos in on-line publications has a passion for evangelism and missionary expansion which is quite different (not an issue of right or wrong) to the Catholic, High-Anglican and non-evangelical Uniting church media who serve their own constituencies and who dominate the ARPA agenda.
A parallel evangelical conference is one option with ARPA or at a separate time entirely in the early part of the year and then meet together at ARPA as usual in September. This is no throwing out the baby with the bath water, rather its looking at meeting a need that is not being met.
Be that as it may, the ARPA Executive need to be thanked for their stirling effort for this Brisbane conference:
Peter Bentley President (Sydney), Executive Officer Liz Harris (Adelaide), Alan Sauer Treasurer (Brisbane), IT David Goodwin (Melbourne) - in February three ARPA members are meeting with the executive to discuss directions. Press Service International's Sophia Sinclair from Sydney is one of these three and has been incorporated as the regular Minutes Secretary and helper of the Executive.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html