Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Spiritual Content Has Higher Power

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Spiritual Content Has Higher Power

Article excerpt

Starts and sales of religious features have risen in recent months, partially due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States

As "Your Angels Speak" launches March 18, it appears there's a trend toward more usage of spiritual features despite budget constraints at many papers. Reasons range from the events of Sept. 11 to the realization by editors that readers want the material.

"There are an awful lot of religious people out there," said "Your Angels Speak" creator Guy Gilchrist, whose weekly feature has an inspirational message and art.

Self-syndicated "Ethics & Religion" columnist Mike McManus said two- thirds of Americans are church or synagogue members, though attendance at services returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels after a temporary uptick.

"Your Angels Speak" is starting with about 25 papers (a good number in a bad economy), including many big ones.

"It's a very positive response," said Lisa Klem Wilson, United Media vice president and general manager. "Sept. 11 has definitely focused people more on spirituality."

Gilchrist feels media outlets are catching up with reader interest in spirituality that's "always been there." When he created "Your Angels Speak" six years ago, there wasn't much syndicate interest. Instead, it existed online and on thousands of prints sold by Gilchrist.

Religion News Service Sales Manager Claudia Sans said business has improved for RNS since Sept. 11. Its clientele of about 100 secular newspapers grew only slightly, but the list of other secular and religious subscribers rose 10%, to 140. These include Web sites, broadcast outlets, etc.

"People started realizing religion is a news story," Sans noted. "And they want to know more about other religions." She said a number of RNS clients publish a recently launched column by Akbar Ahmed, who writes from a Muslim perspective.

RNS is owned by Newhouse News Service and marketed to American papers by Universal Press Syndicate.

Tribune Media Services (TMS) launched "God Squad" in November, and it now has about 20 clients. Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman write the Q-and-A column, which doesn't focus only on Judaism and Catholicism. "It's important after Sept. 11 for a column to appeal to all faiths," said TMS Sales Director Doug Page.

King Features Syndicate offers "Wildwood" by Dan Wright and Tom Spurgeon. …

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