Finding no viable plan for reversing financial losses of recent months, UMR Communications will cease operations today, May 31. UMR Communications (UMRC) publishes the UM Reporter in print and digital formats and online, and provides printing and communication services to churches and other nonprofits. The final print Reporter will carry the date June 7, but will be mailed and printed by May 31.
The UMRC board reluctantly but unanimously voted May 16 to close during a tearful meeting at the nonprofit’s Dallas office. “At one time, our ministry produced nearly 300 separate editions of the newspaper which integrated content created by our news staff with content provided by church and conference partners,” said Tom Palmer, board chair. “That number has decreased over the past 10-15 years due to changes in publishing technology. The financial crisis of 2008 had a significant impact on both individuals and institutions. Local church and conference finances were also severely affected. As a result, a growing number of churches and conferences either ceased publishing Reporter editions or changed their publishing frequency. We now no longer receive enough revenue from our publishing and printing operations to sustain the overhead needed to maintain the ministry.”
Closure will cost the jobs of the 26 remaining employees, including some with more than 40 years of service. Thirteen others were laid off near the end of 2012. Since the beginning of the year, efforts to cut costs while seeking new income could not keep the ministry in the black. Alan Heath, CEO since August 2011, noted that UMRC has operated as a fee-for-service ministry, with no strong donor base and no direct support from The United Methodist Church. For departing employees, severance and vacation pay will not be available in the short term due to lack of funds, Heath said. He added that after liquidation of assets, any remaining funds will be used to pay former employees proportionally.
The Reporter has its origins in pre-Civil War Methodist papers in Texas and was long the main vehicle for
news about Methodists in Texas and across the Southwest. In recent decades, it has covered the full UMC, offering independent news coverage, features and commentaries. Staff members have regularly won religious press awards. Mr. Heath said an appropriate home will be sought for the newspaper’s print and online archives.