You might wonder what a video about The Salvation Army starting a match factory 129 years ago in London's East End has to do with commercial funeral services in Australia, but there's a connection, trust me. (Click the "match factory" link above to see the Army's take. It's worth your time, I believe.)
In that connection lies a tip for Godbeat journalists today: look beyond the immediate story for any deeper background. Both you and your readers will be rewarded.
My thoughts turned to the "Match Girls' Strike" of 1888 when I read this article from Britain's Guardian about a new company in Australia promising to cut the burdensome costs of cremations and funerals:
The Salvation Army has entered Australia’s funeral industry, a move welcomed by consumer advocates concerned by a “long history” of unscrupulous providers taking advantage of the newly bereaved and a lack of competition.
Salvo Funerals officially launched in Sydney this week, following a successful six-month trial in which it delivered more than 90 funerals. Malcolm Pittendrigh, the chief executive, said it was a social enterprise designed to both meet the needs of the community and return money to the not-for-profit.
He had worked at the Salvation Army as an accountant for nearly 20 years and pitched the idea of a funeral service to senior leadership as a “natural extension” of its work.
“Part of our approach was a lean, start-up methodology, where you build, you test, you learn – just to prove that you have something that’s worthy of putting into the community.”
In a market dominated by “a couple of big players”, he said Salvo Funerals’ point of difference was its lower-cost offerings.
There's little doubt that The Salvation Army, with 152 years of service as an evangelical Christian church and about 2 million adherents worldwide, could use some positive press in Australia. Decades of alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse have been reported in children's shelters there, and a plan to redress victims is in the works.
There is, of course, no excuse for mistreating young people, and the Army has deservedly paid a heavy public price for these transgressions.
But Salvo Funerals -- "Salvo" being the Aussie colloquialism for the organization -- offers a chance for some public redemption. So, on that level, it's certainly valid news.