By Robert Dilday
Leaders of both groups stressed the goal of their talks — whose outcome is not predetermined — is to secure a free press and robust news coverage for Baptists regionally, nationally and globally. They also said the process will help them respond strategically to changing dynamics that are shaping the dissemination and consumption of news.
The Baptist Standard, the 126-year-old news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, participated in creating Associated Baptist Press, a national independent news service, 24 years ago.
The two news organizations began working together more closely in 2006, when they joined the Religious Herald of Virginia and Word & Way of Missouri to create a content-sharing platform, called New Voice Media. Across the years, the New Voice Media partners cooperated to cover and distribute hundreds of news stories and feature articles.
The relationship evolved in January 2014, when Associated Baptist Press and the Religious Herald merged. They functioned transitionally under the name ABPnews/Herald. The new organization added a strong news presence in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region — the Religious Herald’s home turf — to ABP’s national coverage.
That transition provided the catalyst for the Baptist Standard — which in addition to its website and weekly digital news publication also produces a monthly feature magazine, CommonCall — to consider the future of collaboration with its longtime partners, reported Meredith Pinson-Creasey of Houston, the Standard’s board chair.
“With the merger of Associated Baptist Press and the Religious Herald, we knew our eight-year New Voice Media partnership would change,” Pinson-Creasey said. “We wanted to determine how best to continue our collaboration and cooperation.”
This change takes places within the larger context of dramatically shifting news dissemination and consumption trends, as well as specific challenges faced by Baptist news organizations, she noted.
“We are attempting to answer a couple of vital questions,” she said. “How do we best address these changes and fulfill our desire and mission to serve Texas Baptists? And with reduced subscription and advertising revenues, how do we provide the best stewardship of our financial resources?”
Kyle Reese of Jacksonville, Fla., a native Texan and chair of Baptist News Global’s board of directors, said he’d read the Baptist Standard most of his life. “To be part of these conversations and visioning a possible shared future for our two organizations is a gift for me. It continues to be true — we can do much more together than we can separately. Baptist News Global is a testimony to that fact.”
Discussions between Baptist News Global and the Baptist Standard will enable them to think and respond strategically to changing dynamics that are shaping the dissemination and consumption of news, board leaders said.
“I first started reading the Baptist Standard more than 30 years ago but am a newcomer to understanding the business of religious journalism,” said Janice Anderson of Houston, chair of Baptist News Global’s partnership task force. “As our teams work together to shape a new future I am excited to discover what God has in store for us.”
“Wherever we look across the media landscape, we are seeing rapid change,” observed Kurt Knapton of Arlington, Texas, Anderson’s counterpart on the Baptist Standard board. “Major daily newspapers, other news organizations and particularly online media are adapting in response to shifting consumer-reader habits and practices. Mergers, joint operating agreements and other collaborative arrangements are enabling media and news organizations to respond strategically and tactically to these currents of change.
“As people tasked with guiding Baptist news organizations, we feel the acute responsibility to make decisions that will strengthen our work — for the betterment of Baptists and the sake of God’s kingdom.”
The staffs of Baptist News Global and the Baptist Standard likewise feel the weight of that responsibility, the CEOs of both organizations reported.
“The strong partnership among the Baptist Standard, Associated Baptist Press and the Religious Herald offers a strong platform from which to engage this conversation about how together we can best serve our readers,” said David Wilkinson, executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. “I believe we can do that in a way that enables us to respond creatively to dramatic changes in communication technology, in news media and in Baptist life.”
“The strong legacy of the Baptist Standard never leaves our minds,” said Marv Knox, the Standard’s editor and publisher. “For generations, Texas Baptists have relied upon the Standard to report the truth without fear or favor. We realize a free flow of information enabled Texas Baptists to weather many storms.
“We’re committed to figuring out how best to continue to report information for and about Texas Baptists. We believe Texas Baptists deserve robust local and regional coverage, as well as expansive national and global reporting and insightful analysis of trends and issues. And we’re intent on fulfilling that mandate—ensuring the stability of reliable, courageous news delivery to Texas Baptists for generations to come.”
That conversation will not take place in a vacuum, Knox said. Baptist Standard leaders will confer with BGCT leaders about the future of Texas Baptist news coverage and the BGCT-Standard relationship.