Monica Leis has worked in Christian media for over 20 years. She is co-founder of Maranatha News, a Canadian Christian newspaper established in 1996. In April 2012, Maranatha News transitioned from a print version to an online daily Christian news source.
Monica, what was your main goal when you co-founded Maranatha News in 1996?
Our goal was to have a newspaper that would inspire and inform our readers with positive articles that would be of interest to diverse cultures and denominations. We aimed to show forth ethnic diversity in a positive way and I’m glad to say we have.
It was difficult at the beginning; our approach wasn’t always accepted, but the journey has been rewarding. We saw a need and attempted to make a difference.
As a business owner, it’s refreshing to hear feedback from your readers, especially the positive feedback we’ve received over the years saying people felt a part of the Christian community because they saw their culture being represented in Maranatha News.
Has that goal changed over the years?
We have become more refined. In the beginning, Maranatha News had a lot of “preachy” articles. We gradually developed more news content and informative articles.
We eventually produced a newspaper that was well accepted in secular stores in the Greater Toronto Area. Both church and non-church goers had the opportunity to read the various articles, featured stories, and in-depth interviews.
And that is still a part of who we are online. Now Maranatha News can be read from anywhere in the world by anyone with Internet access.
How has the response been since Maranatha News transitioned to an online publication?
The response has been a positive one. Publishing online is still very new to us; the transition began in April, so we are still in the first phase and learning as we go.
Making this move was a step of faith. A business consultant told us three years ago to stop publishing the print edition of the newspaper and transition to a more frequent online news source. At the time, I couldn’t see it. I would be the first to say, “No!” I knew it would be a huge undertaking.
Looking back now, I can see how God has been directing us to enable us to make the transition. December 2011 was our final print edition.
Having an online edition seems like a natural progression in the evolution of Maranatha News. A person knows when it’s time to move.
I enjoy the online Maranatha News format with the opportunity to change text or add to a published article instantly. There are so many other features that weren’t available through our print version that I wonder what took us so long to make the change.
Publishing daily is a challenge at times, but a refreshing one. News happens every day, every hour of the day. We don’t claim to be CNN, but when breaking news happens within the Christian community, like the passing of Chuck Colson or Canadian Bible prophecy teacher Grant Jeffrey, we were able to publish the news immediately. And it is fulfilling to know you can provide your readers with up-to-the-minute news.
Do you find people’s approach to news is different with the advent of “instant communication”? In what ways?
Facebook and other social media sites now play a major part in communicating news. Years ago, you would wait for the six o’clock news to find out what was happening in the world or in your community. Now there’s no need to wait. Just go online or to any social media site and the news is most likely there. When Whitney Houston died, Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with the news of her passing.
Things are moving extremely fast and it’s a challenge to keep up with all that is happening in the world. However, it’s exciting to see the various ways media are reporting the news.
How do reporters and journalists need to approach these changes?
We have to learn to accept changes as they come. Especially changes in technology. It’s difficult to stay abreast of all the new gadgets coming out on the market. Reporters have to be fast with their reporting. For instance, secular media reports the news as it breaks and reporters know there is no time to sit on the story, but they need to report it as the story unfolds. Every day there is another piece to the story of Luka Rocco Magnotta, the Quebec man accused of murdering and dismembering Lin Jun, a 33-year-old Chinese international student. The story is updated frequently during the day. Editors want the story right away.
As a Christian publication, we look for angles on stories more than just reporting the day-to-day facts.
What steps would you advise people take if they are interested in journalism?
I would suggest you pray about it. God instills desires in us, and we need to ask him to fulfill them. If your desire is to write, then take all the classes you possibly can, whether online or night classes, learn all you can, speak with other journalists on how they got started, attend writing conferences, sign up for workshops that are specific to your genre of writing and watch what God will do. Pursue your dreams! Only you can make them a reality!
Can you tell us a little about “Read for Life”?
"Read for Life" began as the result of Johanne Robertson (my business partner and co-founder of Maranatha News) having a stroke. I noticed reading would trigger her normal speech to return for a period of time. Reading definitely helped with her recovery.
It was a few years after the stroke that we began to work with youth within Toronto to promote reading. Johanne felt she wanted to embark on connecting people with the books by award-winning Canadian authors she was reading. To date, we have held events at the Air Canada Centre, The Rogers Centre, Missionfest Toronto, and other conferences, as well as through local churches. Our goal is to promote Canadian authors and their books.
Why would you recommend involvement with The Word Guild?
If you have an interest in writing, then I would recommend you attend a Write! Canada conference. The conference is a place to connect with fellow writers, authors, or people who just love to write. The conference offers a number of classes/workshops that will assist in developing your writing style, whether you are a beginner or more advanced.
The Word Guild also allows you to keep those relationships you’ve established at the conference all year round through their membership listserv group and regular Constant Contact mailings, etc.
How do you feel writers and editors benefit from attending conferences such as Write! Canada?
Writers benefit by meeting other writers with similar interests and by speaking with faculty. By listening to others who have been published, they will walk away with tips that will encourage and strengthen their writing skills.
Editors benefit by meeting new prospective writers who come to pitch their fresh new story ideas. For example, Maranatha News is looking for writers to write on various areas such as: news, reviews, interviews focusing on the arts and social issues for our online publication.
What is your favourite part of being involved in the Write! Canada conference?
My favourite part of being involved in the Write! Canada conference is meeting new people, as well as renewing acquaintances with attendees from former years. It’s a joy to catch up with them to hear how they have progressed in their writing profession, whether it be writing articles or finding a book publisher, it feels like a family reunion.
Each person is at a different level in their writing career. They may be a housewife, pastor, youth leader, teenager, or senior, but whatever their age, Write! Canada is the place to be if they have a passion to write.