This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Three things I learned from The Mennonite

Nine years ago I began my journey with The Mennonite. In 2006, Everett Thomas hired me as a temporary assistant web editor and it grew into the position of executive director. I learned a lot over these years and I’ll share three takeaways here.

1. Being personal goes a long way.

Early in my career—and still at times today— I feel a need to remain private. I learned at a workshop that editors should keep themselves out of their editorials and refrain from making it about themselves too often. I was also timid about putting my personal beliefs out there, as I feared what others would think or that it would compromise my journalistic integrity. However, when I became the interim editor, Everett gave me the advice to write a least one editorial a year about my personal faith or life experiences. So, last year I wrote about my expecting a child and parenthood.

That editorial received some of the most positive feedback of any in my career. It felt good and right to offer readers a window into my life and I’d like to think it helped establish trust.

Furthermore, as social media use increases, the value of transparency also increases. As Margaret Sullivan wrote in the New York Times, “Traditional journalism says: ‘Set [who you are] aside. Be as objective as possible.’ A newer line of thought says, “Be who you are and own it. Just tell readers where you’re coming from.’ ”

2. Value all audiences

In our working arrangement for the past few years, Gordon Houser has edited the print magazine and I have edited the online content and social media. (Gordon and Hannah Heinzekehr, incoming director, will have a similar arrangement.) This set up worked out well as we each prioritized a different audience—print and web.

Granted, there is a lot of overlap between the two. However, Gordon often reminded me that many of our print readers see news stories for the first time in print. Sometimes I forget that we have many readers who aren’t on Facebook and don’t read We still value these readers and, in fact, they are our most loyal readers and supporters. The Mennonite, Inc., wouldn’t exist without their donations and paid subscriptions.

3. Good and bad news travels fast

I will miss editing TMail more than any other aspect of my position. I enjoyed the challenge of putting together the content each week, the rush of seeing what articles readers click on and read and observing readers engage through online comments and Facebook posts.

Since, 2006, I have sent out TMail over 400 times and we haven’t missed a single Monday. Readers have criticized us for focusing too much on the “bad news” in TMail. We try to find a balance between providing timely news and offering encouraging stories, but it’s not easy. I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone. In general, our readers want to be inspired, but they also want to be in the know.

It’s an understatement to write that I will miss working with the staff and the board of directors, who have supported me in many ways. I appreciate the many opportunities and responsibilities that I have been given during my time with The Mennonite, Inc. Finally, I am grateful to have been able to serve the church in this way.

The Mennonite, Inc., is in good hands with the leadership of Hannah Heinzekehr. She begins her position with The Mennonite, Inc., Oct. 1.

Her knowledge of Mennonite Church USA, excellent writing abilities, connections to many individuals across the church and her social media savvy will serve The Mennonite, Inc., well.

I invite you to welcome Hannah and demonstrate your appreciation for her leadership by sending an email or a donation online here or by mailing a check to 3145 Benham Ave., Suite 4, Elkhart, IN 46517.

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