By Robert Dilday
After months of preparation, the merger between Associated Baptist Press and the Religious Herald took effect yesterday, launching a new digital and print media platform aimed at enhancing the mission and heritage of both organizations.
Legal processes to create the new entity — initially to be called ABPnews/Religious Herald — were completed in the past few weeks, following final approval last October by the governing boards of the two news organizations.
Executive Director and Publisher David Wilkinson called it “truly a historic moment for the Baptist family.”
“This merger is good news for everyone who believes that a free press is essential to the health and vitality of the Baptist witness to the gospel,” Wilkinson said. “It offers a way to preserve and perpetuate the rich legacy of an influential, 185-year-old newspaper while also strengthening our capacity to provide timely, compelling content for and about Baptist Christians through multiple media platforms.”
ABP was founded in 1990 as the nation’s first independent news service for Baptists. The Religious Herald, established in 1828, has historic ties to Virginia Baptists and more recently to other Baptists in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Along with its flagship website, ABPnews/Religious Herald will publish a bi-monthly magazine, to launch by the end of January. The website will feature enhanced national and international content, as well as increased coverage of the Mid-Atlantic region.
The magazine, to be called Herald, will be distributed free to members of the annual fund and other donors and to partner churches and organizations. Plans call for an initial press run of 5,000 copies, with full costs for printing, design and distribution to be raised by paid advertising.
The magazine will be more than “the best of the web” from the two previous months, according to a content strategy plan, featuring “issue-driven” and “person-focused” articles to move readers from the “what” of daily news and commentary to the “so-what” implications for individual Christians, churches and the wider Baptist community.
Staff for ABPnews/Religious Herald will function in a virtual environment, with hubs in Waco, Texas; Richmond, Va.; suburban Nashville, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Oxford, N.C.
In addition to Wilkinson, other staff members are Robert Dilday, editor in chief; Bob Allen, news editor; Jeff Brumley, assistant editor; Lindsay Bergstrom, director of creative services; Barbara Francis, business manager and advertising director; and Natalie Aho, interactive communication specialist. Soon to be added are a staff writer and a development assistant.
Access to all content on the website will remain free, financially supported by contributions from readers, churches, partner organizations and foundations.
The Fund for ABPnews will continue to function as the annual fund for the consolidated news organization. Another financial vehicle, the Herald Legacy Initiative, will sustain and build on the investment of subscribers to the print and electronic editions of the Religious Herald and the donors who have supported the Herald through their additional contributions. Individuals who make a commitment to the Legacy Initiative automatically become members of the annual fund.