WFN.ORG is an official news release database project on behalf of faith groups around the world it. It is administered by the Communication Commission, National Council of the Churches of Christ, in the USA.

The posting of news releases and other documents is open to all world and national faith group organizations, is it not limited to members of the National Council of Churches.

Worldwide Faith News is a World Wide Web site on the Internet. Begun on December 24, 1995 it serves as a global archive resource containing news releases, policy statements and other official documents from national and global faith organizations, denominations, ecumenical agencies, and other groups. Users can:

  • Search - the full text of all documents in the archive
  • Subscribe - to a mailing list for all documents as posted
  • Browse - headlines of documents

WFN is intended to be a resource for journalists, academics, religious leaders, clergy and lay people. It is available without charge to Internet users. All documents posted are in the public domain and may be reproduced or quoted.

Origins

Beginning in 1986 the users of Ecunet, the ecumenical computer network, watched the growing database of news releases and other resources in Ecunet's denominational and agency news release meetings.

In October 1992, during the Ecunet/CamCon IV (Computer Applications for Ministry) conference in Dayton, Ohio, a number of models for wider access to the news data bases were explored. The National Council of Churches (USA) Communication Commission began studying means of making a global interfaith news release data base available to journalists, religion leaders, university and seminary faculty and others.

Note: The original project name, Global Ecumenical Newsroom (GEN), was changed to Worldwide Faith News as more inclusive of world faith groups

Feasibility Study

In 1994 a feasibility study funded by the Trinity Grants Program of was conducted. It included interviews and/or surveys with the following groups of people and other resources: journalists (religion writers and secular), journalism school faculty, news directors for denominational and ecumenical organizations, Usenet newsgroups, mailing lists, journalism and Internet related publications, WWW sites and site developers.

Among the religion organizations surveyed were national and global denominational news offices, the Christian Council of Asia, World Council of Churches, Consejo Latinoamericano de Iglesias, and the South African Council of Churches.

1994 Study Findings

  • A quantum shift in the training and qualification of journalists in CARR (computer assisted research and reporting) and the use of rapidly evolving Internet tools and resources for research.
  • Strong immediate interest on the part of journalists and news directors in some form of "religion wire" on the Internet; particularly a searchable full text online database consisting of news releases, policy statements and other documents.
  • Strong immediate interest among the news and communication directors of denominations and religion organizations in making their news releases and other documents more widely available on the Internet
  • An exponential increase in the number of government, corporate, non-profit and other organization Internet sites, providing news release resources, online databases, and audio and video clips.
  • A global proliferation of millions of Web home pages, among them many denominational and faith group official and "unofficial" home pages.

A Significant Beginning

Worldwide Faith News opened online eighty nine years after the first radio broadcast.

The first extended broadcast of the human voice was transmitted through the air on December 24, 1906 from Brant Rock, Massachusetts. A Canadian engineer, Reginald Fessenden, had worked for Thomas Edison in his New Jersey Laboratory, and later became a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Fessenden was convinced that the "wireless telegraph", which then carried only the sputtering dots and dashes of Morse code, could carry the human voice. The most common use for wireless at that time was communication with merchant ships at sea, directing them to ports where the cargo would bring the best price. The shipboard wireless operators were called "Sparks."

An account by Fessenden's wife, Helen, reports his historic transmission, as the Sparks on ships across the Atlantic heard what they had dreamed about — and thought impossible.

"...a human voice coming from their instruments — someone speaking... Then a women's voice rose in song. It was uncanny! Many of them called their officers to come and listen; soon the wireless rooms were crowded. Next someone was heard reading a poem. Then there was a violin solo; then a man made a speech."

The broadcast historian Eric Barnouw in, A Tower In Babel: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, reports that Fessenden himself played Gounod's O, Holy Night on the violin. He also read from the Christmas story from the biblical book of Luke and played a phonograph recording of Handel's Largo.

Recognizing that historical event, Worldwide Faith News opened on December 24, 1995.

The WFN Design

  • The initial 1995 Internet site was leased from a ISP vendor, with an appropriate suite of server tools including gopher WAIS, the Verity search engine and a Majordomo mailing list server. Graphic and plain text interfaces are available. Three possible ISP vendors were identified during the feasibility study. All were non-profit organizations. The Institute for Global Communication (IGC) in San Francisco was selected as the vendor for initial WFN development.
  • The WFN.ORG Internet domain is an official news release archive for the participating organizations. It will not carry the identify of any single organization. The "sponsorship" and administration are clearly stated on the home pages.
  • WFN provides free access for any Internet user, following the evolving Internet access protocols.
  • WFN initially designed, with the Verity search engine, to meet the expectations of journalists and other researchers by following the standards of existing commercial, governmental and other sites on the Web.
  • The WFN.ORG home pages will have links to the Internet sites and official home pages of denominations and other faith organizations. They in turn will have links to WFN for news resources. National and International faith group and denominational sites are expected to grow rapidly.
  • WFN provides a global mailing list religion "news-wire" carrying releases from all participants, using a Majordomo listserver. A series of of other mailing lists may be considered based on topics, denominations, organizations. Multilingual service is included in the design, present languages are English, German, French and Spanish.
  • WFN is designed as a low maintenance system and does not provide any form of editorial service. Documents from participating organizations will indexed, forwarded to the Majordomo mailing list server and archived exactly as received.
  • The news release document archive is maintained automatically. It is full text indexed daily to include each day's additions. Full text searches originally used the ht://Dig open source search engine and later moved to using Google News Search.
  • In late 2011 and early 2012 WFN transitioned to serve as a news aggregator, gathering and displaying news via RSS feed. The new RSS-based version of wfn.org enables images from the original story to display on WFN (if the originating site permits it) and provides a link from WFN directly to the original full text news story on the faith group’s web site.

Management of WFN

Initially the NCCC Communication Commission manages WFN, in consultation with the WFN Advisory Group, as administrator of the start-up and development grants from the Trinity Grants Program of Trinity Church (Episcopal) in New York City.

In the future - the WFN Advisory Group of participating denomination and agency representatives. An initial meeting was held May 22, 1995 during Ecunet '95 Conference in Baltimore. The group has met twice each year since that meeting. The Advisory Group has developed news release style sheets, a WFN standards and practices document, and membership policies.

Funding

The feasibility study was funded by a grant from the Trinity Grants Program. A second grant from the Program has provided the costs of WFN system design, vendor selection and start-up expenses. WFN is particularly appreciative of the support and advice of Odessa Elliott of the Trinity Grants Program.

In kind support is provided by the NCCC Communication Commission and other participants in WFN. It is anticipated that the funding will support 12-18 months of operation continuing through 1998. After that the low maintenance costs will be shared among the participants on an equitable basis.

For information regarding the National Council of Churches, please visit: The National Council of Churches

 

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