Christian journalism becoming a hot commodity
July 12, 2005
While viewership and circulation continue to drop for secular news media like CBS and many of the nation’s large metropolitan daily newspapers, conservative Christian journalism is flourishing.
FamilyNet, the television network of the Southern Baptist Convention that offers nightly newscasts, is now seen in more than 32 million homes. WORLD magazine, the Asheville, N.C.-based conservative Christian magazine with strong Missouri ties, has seen its circulation rise from 20,000 in 1992 to 140,000 today. The number of religious radio stations has grown by 14 percent in the last five years, from 1,769 to 2,014, according to Arbitron. Missouri’s beloved Bott Radio Network is in expansion mode and will likely have additional stations in other states soon. A recent report by The Barna Group found that more people use Christian media than attend church.
The Pathway, firmly entrenched as the theologically conservative voice of Missouri’s 600,000 Southern Baptists, has seen its paid circulation grow from zero to 15,000 in 30 months. In June, The Pathway’s Web site experienced the largest number of visitors it has ever recorded for one month. The Pathway will expand into the radio ministry when I begin broadcasting my commentaries over Bott Radio’s seven Missouri stations beginning Aug. 1.
There is no better indicator of how well things are going than when your detractors take notice of you. Such has been the case with The Pathway in recent weeks. For example, we have been a target in recent editorials by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star. Both are in a snit because Gov. Matt Blunt chose to address fellow Southern Baptists about judicial activism through an exclusive Pathway interview. (Wonder what they will write when they see his column at the top of the next page?)
So what is causing people to flock to Christian media?
I think there are several reasons. To be sure, reporting the news from a strictly Christian perspective (worldview) presents unique challenges. Media scholar Terry Mattingly has likened it to interpreting opera – many people don’t know what they’re talking about. “The (secular) press can sit in the middle of highly intense religious situations and just not understand what they’re watching,” he recently told The Dallas Morning News. He said studies have uncovered astonishing anger among churchgoers about inaccuracies in media coverage of religion. This is driving Christians to find alternative sources of information.
In addition, technological advances, a polarized electorate and the increasing prominence of evangelicals have triggered growth among Christian news media. Reporting the news through a biblical worldview perspective often enables people to make sense of world events. I also like to think that we are trusted and studies suggest that people do trust Christian news media more than the secular press.
Of course, some people accuse us of being biased (I admit to being biased toward my Savior, the Lord Jesus). WORLD Magazine Editor and Chief Marvin Olasky prefers to call it “biblical objectivity.”
I like that.