Journalism is an art when, at its best, it not only “tells it like it is” but also offers the possibilities of what could be. At the same time, the content of a publication, broadcast or website should feed the interests of its readers/viewers.

Editors at places such as the ELCA’s Living Lutheran microblogging site, Seeds for the Parish, Stories of Faith in Action, ELCA News and The Lutheran glean insights into those needs from people pitching stories and others reacting to the published product.

Every so often, editors actually ask the intended audience of their writing what it is they want. We did that recently, surveying a representative sample of members about what kinds of stories/resources they would like to see more of in ELCA news, features, publications and information sources.

The top five “more of this” wasn’t too surprising (in order): best practices for congregations; faith, spirituality, devotion; being a Lutheran/Lutheranism; discipleship; and religious trends. What was surprising was how much folks wanted more of this. From 51.8 percent to 62.9 percent of survey respondents agreed they need more information on these five topics.

Rounding out the top 10 were worship; faith sharing; Bible studies and best practices for pastors (tie); and ecumenism. These were followed by youth and/or young adults; family, parenting; profiles of congregations; news of other denominations; and profiles of members.

A separate group took the survey after becoming aware of it on social media. While not statistically reliable, the results were similar. The top five areas for more information among this group (in order): being a Lutheran/Lutheranism; faith, spirituality, devotion; worship; best practices for congregations; and discipleship.

A few quick takes from the data showed that the respondents — thus the membership of the ELCA — are well educated, older, white and relatively well off financially (40 percent had annual household incomes of more than $80,000 and 60 percent more than $60,000).

We’re working to create in 2016 an integrated storytelling platform, including a printed/mailed magazine; a dynamic website dedicated to features and news about and from the ELCA; and an e-newsletter that is a digest of the best of recent stories. We’ll use the data from the survey to help us produce copy meaningful for who/what we are now as well as who/what we want to become in the future.

Daniel J. Lehmann

I am a lifelong Lutheran with decades of experience in secular journalism. Like many of you, I’m interested in the theological and historical roots of our faith and how that plays out in the contemporary world. I want to know what our church members and leaders are thinking, what other Lutherans are doing, how religion in general influences and is impacted by culture.
My favorite reading materials are newspapers, specialty magazines and non-fiction. I work hard, but never skip vacations in order to regroup.
I’ve been blessed with a spouse of 40 years, two children and seven grandchildren. My church is a focal point of life in Chicago. I answer my own phone, and respond to e-mail and letters (but usually not spleen-venting tirades).
And I'm a fan of the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls, as well as the Art Institute, Field Museum, the lakefront and Millennium Park. Chicago's my kind of town.

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