[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] One of the world’s oldest Anglican newspapers, the Church Times, hits a major milestone tomorrow when it publishes its 8,000th edition. The newspaper was founded in 1863 but is not the world’s oldest Anglican periodical – that honour falls to the Church of England Newspaper, which was founded 35-years-earlier in 1828.
Both newspapers are independent both of each other, and of the Church of England. The Church Times is published by Hymns Ancient and Modern.
In tomorrow’s editorial, the Church Times’ editor, Paul Handley, writes a strong defence of traditional journalism and argues against the “ill-informed celebrity click-bait” that many news organisations now follow.
“The waters that used to keep so many newspapers afloat, national, regional and local, have receded in recent decades,” he writes. “Some independent publications, such as the Church Times, have invested enough in new technology to remain shipshape, but many have gone under.”
He cites a recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Viner, who argues that “a strong journalistic culture is worth fighting for,” and adds: “Like her, we detect a turning of the tide in favour of intelligent journalism and against ill-informed celebrity click-bait dictated by a Facebook or Google algorithm - but there is still no sign of a robust business model to support this.
“The Church Times is fortunate to function under the radar of the social-media giants, and continues to enjoy the business model that has sustained so many newspapers in the past: a readership willing to pay a small sum to be informed, challenged and entertained, and a collection of businesses and charities who see the value in advertising their services (and parishes their vacancies) to those readers.”
Mr Handley says that the Church Times’ staff “never fail to appreciate” the privilege of working for the paper, and adds: “When the Church does things right, as, with the grace of God, it often does, it is a joy to bring the news to readers. When it falls short, it is an honour to be the conduit through which so many ideas for improvement flow.
“On these pages, numbering in their millions, tradition and novelty alike are tested, and, as a consequence, the Church can function as a national and international body, greater than the sum of its members.”
To mark its 8,000th edition, the Church Times is providing free access to its online archive. Normally available only to the paper’s subscribers, the archive will be free to access through the month of July.