One thing is certain: People still read the newspaper. New acquaintances have mentioned noticing the columns in Saturday's print edition, and on Sunday mornings after one of my columns appears, an observant church member invariably places a copy on a table in the fellowship hall.
The good old-fashioned print edition still gets noticed, then, and this is good news for those of us who love newspapers. Still, one can't get past the sneaking suspicion that the future for dialogue about faith, politics and other important matters, and for news-gathering, lies in the online environment.
The best boss I ever had was fond of saying that any organization is only as good as the conversations that happen within it. We have healthy relationships within a family, in a company or in society at large, only so long as we're able to talk with one another. Finding creative ways to use the Web is one way to help make this happen.
When used well, the Web knocks down barriers and facilitates conversation. There is power in immediacy. Responses from friends and new acquaintances who read the column in the print edition tend to be kind and diplomatic. Online responses from readers generally are more blunt and honest.
On balance, the somewhat freer flow of communication is a good and healthy thing, especially for clergy members, for whom communication traditionally has been a mostly one-way affair. It is good for us to know what people really think, although we may not always be comfortable with what we hear.
I hope the good folks at the newspaper will build on the conversation that they have started over the past year. Let's keep talking.
THE REV. CHARLES COCHRAN IS THE PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) IN AUGUSTA.