Within 100 years of Johann Gutenberg's advances with movable type, early Anabaptist leaders recognized the power of the pen and the press to advance their movement. In the first 325 years of Anabaptism, journalistic efforts were limited largely to pamphlets and books written by leaders. Some Anabaptists (e.g. Hans Hut and Andreas Castelberger) were itinerant booksellers and pamphleteers, in many ways the occupation closest to modern journalism in the 16th century. Beginning in the 19th century, however, Mennonite involvement in journalism became multifaceted and far-reaching, first within the church and later in secular media.
In Kitchener (then Berlin), Ont., in 1835, pioneer Mennonite bishop Benjamin Eby was a shareholder in a printing business which also published a newspaper, Das kanadische Museum (Canada Museum). In 1840 ownership was transferred to Heinrich Eby, Benjamin's son. Benjamin used this connection to publish some primers and, in 1841, Kurzgefasste Kirchen-Geschichte und Glaubenslehre (A Brief Church History and Primer of Belief), a successful book on Mennonite history and doctrine.
In 1953 The Canadian Mennonite was begun in Winnipeg to serve as the first English-language newspaper for Mennonites across Canada. Founding editor Frank H. Epp envisioned a paper that would connect the various groups to each other and promote inter-Mennonite cooperation through Mennonite Central Committee. The Canadian Mennonite ceased publication in 1971, but many of its functions were assumed by Mennonite Reporter, established at Waterloo, Ont., in 1971, with Epp again at the editorial helm. The Mennonite Reporter was succeeded by the Canadian Mennonite, a new integrated Mennonite publication, in 1997.
Cooperation among journalists of various Mennonite publications increased with the formation of Meetinghouse in 1972. Editors from nine different periodicals met annually to plan cooperative projects. In addition, one reporter frequently represented all the association's members to cover stories with broad appeal.
In the late 1980s hundreds of periodicals align themselves with the Mennonite denominations, many officially and some privately. They have developed out of the need to interpret church-related programs and issues to a more highly educated laity combined with the ready availability of printing and other communication technologies. Springer and Klassen's Mennonite Bibliography lists 671 periodicals in North America alone and dozens in other countries for the 1631-1961 period.
Also in the 20th century, individual Mennonites have increasingly entered secular journalism as a business or profession. One unusual community newspaper, The Sugarcreek Budget, was launched in Ohio in 1890 by an Amish-Mennonite, John C. Miller. This weekly, with a mostly Amish readership, emphasizes correspondence from far-flung settlements, a practice that had attracted more than 16,500 subscribers by 1987.
Mennonite publishers of community newspapers after mid-century have included David K. Friesen, who founded The Altona Echo (now the Red River Valley Echo) in Manitoba in 1941; H. Ralph Hernley, who launched the Laurel Group of five weekly newspapers and a magazine in western Pennsylvania in 1965; and Richard and Marlene Benner, who owned newspapers in central Pennsylvania, 1973-84.
Mennonite reporters have worked for daily newspapers in many cities, including Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver in Canada and Lancaster, Pa.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Elkhart, Ind.; and Wichita, Ks., in the United States. Mennonite broadcast journalists have worked with radio and television stations in several cities and with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and American Public Radio. Journalists with Mennonite backgrounds have also held senior positions with the Associated Press and Newsweek.
Epp, Frank H. "D. W. Friesen and His Life Work." Mennonite Life 11 (July 1956): 118-19.
Epp, Frank H. "Death of a Church Paper and Resurrection." The Mennonite (6 April 1971): 226-29.
Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1786-1920. Toronto, ON: Macmillan Canada, 1974.
Epp, Frank H. "On Mennonite Journalism." The Canadian Mennonite (8 August 1967): 4.
Harms, Orlando. Pioneer Publisher: The Life and Times of J. F. Harms. Winnipeg and Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1984.
Hertzler, Daniel. "Meetinghouse." Gospel Herald (5 January 1988): 16.
Horst, Irvin B. "Joseph Funk, Early Mennonite Printer and Publisher." Mennonite Quarterly Review 31 (1957): 260-77.
Hostetler, John A. God Uses Ink. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1958.
Juhnke, James C. A People of Two Kingdoms. Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press, 1975.
MacMaster, Richard K. Land, Piety, Peoplehood: The Establishment of Mennonite Communities in America, vol. 1. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985.
Ruth, John. Maintaining the Right Fellowship. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1984.
Smith, C. Henry. The Story of the Mennonites, 4th ed. Newton, KS: Mennonite Publications Office, 1957.
Springer, Nelson P. and A. J. Klassen, compilers. Mennonite Bibliography 1631-1961, 2 vols. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press 1977.
Toews, John A. History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, ed. A.J. Klassen. Fresno, CA: Mennonite Brethren Board of Literature and Publication, 1975.
Yoder, Harvey. "The Budget of Sugarcreek, Ohio, 1890-1920." Mennonite Quarterly Review 40 (1966): 27-47.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 467-468. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Showalter, Stuart W. "Journalism." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/J687ME.html.
APA style: Showalter, Stuart W. (1990). Journalism. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/J687ME.html.