One year to go
Planning for more sunny days to come
“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.” Those lyrics by James Taylor describe my time editing WORLD since 1992. But sunny days do end, and two years ago I became concerned about how my tenure as editor in chief would conclude.
Organizations often see fire and rain when someone who’s been a leader for a long time leaves. So in 2019 I decided to stop editing (while continuing to write columns and book reviews) upon hitting my 30-year mark, God willing, on July 1, 2022. Two years ago I started the process of making sure everyone on that day has the right seat on the bus. Now, with a year to go, I can happily report that WORLD is in good shape for the transition.
In large part that’s because we have seven graced and gracious leaders who will form our Editorial Council once I’m out of leadership. Michael Reneau, Tim Lamer, Lynde Langdon, and Paul Butler lead our magazine, website, and podcasting platforms. Senior editor Mindy Belz and national editor Jamie Dean will also have seats on the council, chaired by Nick Eicher, our chief content officer. Editors of our three platforms have a lot of autonomy week by week: Council members will discuss questions that emerge in our quest for Biblical objectivity.
I also feel confident because those platforms now have clear roles, as different as their media are but similar in our reporting-first vision. WORLD Magazine at 35 is mature and thoughtful. We respect our readers by introducing them to people they are unlikely to meet, places they probably haven’t visited, and sometimes ideas that challenge their own.
WORLD Digital at half that age is our newspaper that changes throughout the day as events happen, all the while avoiding hot takes that often turn out to be mistakes. We have a new website that displays news well. We email out twice each day specialty newsletters that inform readers about developments in specific areas such as abortion, education, poverty-fighting, science, and religious liberty. (If any of those subjects interest you, please sign up at wng.org/newsletters.)
WORLD Radio’s The World and Everything in It is now a benevolent daily habit for hundreds of thousands. It features a daily five-minute newscast followed by reliable features like Legal Docket, Money Beat, Washington Wednesday, Culture Friday, and more. By the end of the 30-minute podcast listeners can go away assured that the sky is not falling, because God holds it up. We also have podcast series, such as Effective Compassion.
Those seven leaders and three platforms operate with the aid of 45 other writers and correspondents trained at the World Journalism Institute. (I’ll continue as dean of it.) Our common educational experience and faith help all three platforms to focus on reporting with Biblical objectivity. That opposes overall journalistic trends in three ways:
First is our emphasis on eyeballing and describing. As the Columbia Journalism Review recently reported, “commentary is a cheap and powerful attraction.” Reporting on the scene is expensive. Some publications and journalists have relished the COVID-19-era rationale for staying in air-conditioned offices and opinionating. WORLD is different: Our writers yearn to hit the road and learn by observing firsthand.
Second, we take seriously Jesus’ teaching, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” When the Bible is clear, we take a stand, as we have done on abortion, evolution, LGBT trends, and many other issues—including Bible translation itself. But even on such questions we try to avoid ramping up resentment. That goes against the prevailing school of journalistic marketing and its two-word formula: anger sells.
Third, we also deviate from current media success advice by refusing to become tribalistic, parroting the political slogans of “our side” and turning temporary opponents into permanent enemies. Bucking that trend in today’s polarized environment sometimes leaves us lonely. But our faith shines most brightly on those days when we’re immersed in controversy and can say, in the words of Taylor’s song, “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus? You’ve got to help me make a stand.”
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