GOOD year, bad year? As 2013 draws to a close, we ask veteran journalist Bill Heaney, journalist, columnist and photographer, specialising in religion: ‘How has it been for you?’
Briefly, what is it that you do?
I write a weekly column for the Lennox Herald, where I was editor for many years. I also report news – mainly church news – and take photographs for weekly and national papers and specialist newspapers and magazines which deal in religious matters.
I am a former special adviser, on the regional Press, at Holyrood and a media adviser at Westminster. I am now semi-retired and include writing an occasional blog for allmediascotland.com among my current commitments.
Choose three words that sum up 2013 (so far), from a professional point of view.
Pope Francis elected.
In 2012, what was your biggest ambition for 2013, and to what extent did you achieve it?
To convince news organizations that religion is an important area of life and work to which they should devote more column inches and air time. The success gained has been modest and, if the truth be told, more down to events than any PR-type persuasion.
How has 2013 (so far) been for you, personally?
In a word, it has been remarkable. Since January, when I predicted exclusively – here on allmediascotland – that Pope Benedict might be the first pope to resign in 600 years, we’ve had the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien, a gay-ministers-in-the-pulpit debate at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and allegations of sex abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey School. We’ve also had a walk-out of congregations from Mass over bishops’ decisions to suspend serving priests and closer ecumenical ties being forged between churches through the Churches Together movement. Then there’s been the generosity of Scots in giving to Mary’s Meals and the Scottish International Aid Fund, plus the involvement of clergy of all religions in support for the victims and relatives of the Clutha Vaults helicopter crash.
Any changes this year in technology, legislation, the economy, etc that have had a relatively significant impact on the business?
Changes in legislation in relation to the ‘same sex marriage’ issue are, like the poor, always with us, it seems. And the impact of the failure of the churches to recruit priests and ministers and to hold on to the people who attend church regularly.
What looking forward to, in 2014 – personally and professionally?
Just to keep going as I enter my 52nd year in this once wonderful business and to record how the churches, like most of our newspapers, go about fighting to survive in the 21st century. And to getting paid properly for the work I do in an era when the ‘labourer in the vineyard’ seems no longer to be worthy of his hire.