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The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

The new name of 'The Observer' revealed!

"United Church" will no longer be on the cover, but our commitment to sharing denominational news and perspectives remains the same

By Jocelyn Bell

This issue marks a historic moment for the magazine. It is the last one to be published under the name The United Church Observer. Next month, we’re starting an exciting new chapter, relaunching in print and online as Broadview.

The name United Church Observer served this publication well for 80 of its 190 years. But recently, our hunch has been that people beyond the pews who would really enjoy the stories we produce aren’t subscribing. Either the magazine doesn’t reach them or the United Church moniker signals a magazine for “members only.”

Market research supported our hunch. Last spring, we surveyed 1,300 subscribers and 1,000 non-subscribers. Among the non-subscribers, 59 percent had never heard of The United Church Observer, and 25 percent knew the name but had never read it. And these are Canadians who regularly read magazines, share our liberal social values and consider themselves spiritual and/or Christian.

With this new information, The Observer’s Board of Directors decided that — along with the magazine’s 190th anniversary and The United Church of Canada restructuring — 2019 was the time to change. After all, we need new audiences to sustain this publication for years to come.

Coming up with a new name was even harder than naming a baby. For about two months, the editorial team obsessed over this task, scribbling down possibilities, drawing word diagrams, combing the thesaurus for alternatives. Copyright laws prevented us from simply truncating to “The Observer.” That name is already owned.

A sample cover of the new magazine. 

Some of you will know that our office is located on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, near Broadview subway station. One morning, managing editor Kristy Woudstra was exiting the station on her way into work and thought, What about Broadview? When she shared it with me, I was unsure. Names are like that. It takes a while for them to take root. But the seed was planted, and it grew.

Broadview has both gravitas and levity. It feels like the name of a magazine that’s been around for a long time. It signals the open-mindedness and inclusivity that defines the United Church today. It even reaches those who think Christianity is dogmatic and invites them to discover a new expression of the faith. When we tested Broadview along with eight other names in our survey, both our current subscribers and non-subscribers favoured it by a wide margin. So the decision was made.

Although “United Church” will no longer be on the cover, the inside pages will contain the same amount of denominational news and perspectives. And our commitment to top-quality journalism through a progressive Christian lens will be as vibrant as ever.

I’ve had a year to get used to Broadview. And now it’s hard to imagine the renewed publication being called anything else. Thank you for sharing this momentous occasion with us. New adventures await!

More news: Two longtime staff members are also about to embark on new adventures. Senior writer Mike Milne, author of this month’s cover story, is retiring after nearly 36 years. And art director Ross Woolford is departing after working with the magazine since 1988. We are so grateful to both for their many years of dedicated service.

Author's photo
Jocelyn Bell is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
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(Photo: cuatrok77/Flickr via Creative Commons)

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