Changes to the mandate, governance and editorial policy of the Anglican Journal and the introduction of an editorial board were approved by Council of General Synod (CoGS) on March 15.
The changes were part of a motion which also proposed an amalgamation of two coordinating committees—the Communications and Information Resources Coordinating Committee and the Anglican Journal Coordinating Committee—and terms of reference for the new committee.
“This has been an enormous amount of work that the working group and two committees have put together, and I’m really proud of it, especially because so many people were involved. There was so much consultation, and in the end there was a large consensus around the work that we’ve done, around the decisions that we’ve made,” the Rev. Karen Egan, chair of the Communications and Information Resources Coordinating Committee, told CoGS when explaining the motion.
The previous mandate of the Journal, as specified in the handbook of the General Synod, is to be “a national newspaper of interest to the members of the Anglican Church of Canada, with an independent editorial policy and not being an official voice of or for the church.”
The new mandate reads, “the General Synod shall produce and distribute journalistic content of interest to the members of the Anglican Church of Canada, whose purpose is to connect and reflect the Church to internal and external audiences, providing a forum for the full range of voices and views across the Church.”
It also specifies that this content “may appear in print and/or digital formats, using the most appropriate and cost-effective technologies as these evolve over time, consistent with the goal that all Canadian Anglicans and others who wish to access this information are able to do so as easily as possible and practicable,” and that the print version of the national publication “may also provide a means to distribute diocesan newspapers and other materials as inserts.”
The motion also makes General Synod the publisher of the Anglican Journal rather than the Anglican Journal Coordinating Committee. “There was always an issue about whether or not the members of that committee would be liable should a suit come to the Journal,” Egan said.
It also establishes an editorial board which will oversee the Anglican Journal.
The editorial board will consist of four to five members, including at least one member of the newly amalgamated Communications Coordinating Committee, and at least one past or current editor of a diocesan newspaper. The role of the board will be to “provide advance input into the journalistic planning process” and “review journalistic performance in light of the mandate and editorial policy.”
The new editorial policy states that the Journal is expected to “adhere to the highest standards of journalistic responsibility, accuracy, fairness, accountability and transparency” and publish journalism which is “fact-based, fact-checked and in-depth, tackling important issues, asking and answering difficult questions.”
The policy also states a commitment to “representing the widest possible diversity of information and opinion across the Anglican Church of Canada” with a balance of views “measured and achieved over a reasonable time frame.” Letters to the editor, solicited columns and op-ed pieces are listed as examples of “the principle of right of reply.” It also states that all stories will be clearly identified as reportage, analysis or opinion.
“The Editorial Policy may be modified from time to time by the Council of General Synod on the advice of the Editorial Board,” it states.
The motion caused some discussion at CoGS, as Jason Antonio—a member from the diocese of Qu’Appelle and managing editor of the diocese’s newspaper, The Saskatchewan Anglican—expressed a desire to vote separately on the amalgamation of the two committees and the changes to the Anglican Journal, citing “deep misgivings” about the new mandate.
Antonio put forward an amendment to deal with the mandate separately, which was seconded but ultimately defeated by consensus.
The newly formed Communications Coordinating Committee will consist of four members elected by the General Synod and “at least three members appointed by the primate, provided that at least one member shall be a member of the Council of General Synod and one shall be a member of the editorial board.”
Chancellor of General Synod Canon (lay) David Jones, who presented the motions to CoGS, said the motion comes into effect based on the council’s approval, as CoGS has the ability to create and amalgamate committees and set their terms of reference. CoGS also passed a second motion to send the changes to the next meeting of General Synod, in July, for confirmation.