Striving for journalistic independence
CEO NOTES | At WORLD, we believe we can root for Christian organizations while standing independently of them
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We often talk about “journalistic independence” at WORLD. Our ideal is to be “dependent on God and independent of any political faction or interest group,” as we noted back in 2006.
True independence is nearly impossible for any news organization to achieve, because all journalists bring a variety of interests and connections and investments to their work. But for Christian journalists, it may be even harder. The Christian life is not primarily a life of independence. It is a life of dependence (on God) and of interdependence (with one another).
Christians are called to worship and work together. We believe it is good when Christian organizations work with other Christian organizations and when Christian organizations work with churches—all for the sake of the gospel.
So where does that leave WORLD? How do we pursue the ideal of journalistic independence, all the while rooting for the success of other Christian organizations, ministries, and churches?
It’s a paradox, but we believe our particular calling is to help the Body of Christ by guarding our ability to tell the truth about everything we see, good or bad, both inside and outside the Church. Being in that position does require a relationship of independence.
Yet, throughout WORLD’s history, the lives of our individual editors and reporters have been interwoven with churches, Christian institutions, political movements, and advocacy groups. We don’t expect our staffers to leave behind other areas of ministry when they come to WORLD. We’ve had editors and contributors who were professors, provosts, pastors, and presidents. They have been active in compassion ministry, politics, and think tanks. All of this participation informs our reporting, even as we strive to maintain independence on the job.
We do that by remaining vigilant about journalistic ethics—story by story, fact by fact. When, for instance, WORLD founder Joel Belz served as moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America in 2003, we had to navigate his calling to serve his church while maintaining independence when we were called to report on issues involving the General Assembly or the PCA. That was 20 years ago, and we have continued to remain alert for potential conflicts of interest—for example, enjoining our writers and editors from volunteering for a group they will likely have to cover someday.
It’s an ongoing, thoroughgoing effort. And like any need, whether individual or corporate, our need for independence while practicing interdependence is just one more reason for complete dependence on God.