This column is my last for 2009 and it nearly brings to a close The Pathway’s seventh year in print. It has been a privilege and a blessing to serve as its founding editor. I hope the paper and Web site have been a reliable source of information and an encouragement to you in your daily walk with Christ.
That said, change you can believe in is coming to The Pathway in 2010. To paraphrase an oft-used statement: If you’re standing still, you’re losing ground. While The Pathway generally receives high marks for its content and presentation, we must never be satisfied with our work. We serve an excellent God who expects his creatures to strive for excellence in everything we do – for His honor and glory.
To that end, The Pathway has embarked on an extensive self-analysis of its content that will last for several months, culminating – hopefully by annual meeting time in late October – in changes that will dramatically alter The Pathway’s appearance. Our goal is to provide more sharp photography, graphics and shorter, snappier stories. We are considering some new features and are leaving no stones unturned. Our goal is to make The Pathway more attractive and faster to read while offering more variety and staying true to our Biblical worldview approach to journalism.
We recently hosted a focus group session with eight people most of whom do not subscribe to The Pathway. For two hours they examined several issues of The Pathway. I listened to their opinions and shared my heart with them. The result was a lively, productive discussion that spawned new ideas while affirming some existing features. In short, what we heard is that they want more information on family issues and on public policy when it comes to moral issues like homosexual marriage and abortion. I pledged to honor their requests.
Yet as The Pathway enters a new era by embracing healthy change, be assured that its staff will not compromise the paper’s core principles. The Pathway has established itself as a credible source of news concerning Missouri Baptist and Southern Baptist life. We are known for our conservative, biblical worldview outlook — something that will never change as long as I am editor.
I also want to affirm our commitment to quality, Christian journalism. Journalism is important to Southern Baptists because we believe in liberty. In order to preserve that liberty, we must be informed, for to be otherwise is to invite tyranny and heresy. Without quality Christian journalism, readers are left only with opinion and commentary. Commentary is no substitute for factual news reporting – the knowledge base that should help guide rational decision-making.
Bryan Chappell, a former journalist and now a seminary president who serves on WORLD magazine’s board, delivered a speech to the WORLD Journalism Institute in 2004 titled, “A Christian Journalism.” He offered four guiding principles for Christian journalism that The Pathway embraces:
Christian journalism must be true. The third commandment (which requires care for God’s name, particularly in taking oaths and vows in support of the truth) and the ninth commandment (which is more narrowly concerned with malicious slander) forbids spreading falsehoods in either personal or public communication.
Christian journalism must be provable. The Bible does not allow us to publish what we think is true if we cannot prove that it is true. Before we disseminate favorable or unfavorable information we are required to ensure and evidence its accuracy. This means first that we must have dependable sources and factual support for what we report. Suspicions, idle speculation, quarrelsome suppositions and malicious rumors have no place in Christian testimony.
Christian journalism must be edifying. It is not enough that a story is true, or even that you can prove it is true. Christians are biblically obligated to report what will edify. This means that, in addition to being careful about judging the motives of others, Christian journalists must also consider their own motives when assessing the appropriateness of a news report. It is not enough for the Christian journalist to simply ask if there is a compelling public interest, but to go further and consider how one’s work fulfills their calling of redeeming creation for the glory of God.
Christian journalism must be redemptive. Our most rigorous critiques still require us to desire the good of those we are correcting and, if they are believers, to engage them in such a way that the Spirit will lead them to repentance and reconciliation with the church.
I admit we have not always lived up to these standards and, as fallible as we are, we ask God to help us meet them going forward, trusting in His guidance and grace. It is a joy being a Christian journalist, for we participate in the redemption of creation for the glory of our Savior and Creator. As Chappell said, “The glory of journalism is using demonstrable truth to edify – and if edify is too mild a word, then substitute the words that Christian journalism is to champion: truth, dignity, justice and mercy.”
I hope The Pathway has been a blessing to you and I ask as we enter 2010 that you pray for me and the staff. It is a joy to serve as editor of your state newspaper. God bless you all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!