By Chris Turner
Director of Communications, TBC
I hear the naysayers. They say newspaper is dead. Or, if not dead, is dying, or on life support, or limping to an inglorious death, or breathing its last, or turning blue. Or as one friend would say of newspaper’s current state, “It wouldn’t fog a mirror.”
As someone who loves newspapers and has been associated with newspaper production for the better part of 30 years, I agree, sort of. But not completely.
There are many reasons for the death or decline of newspaper, especially printed versions. The rise of a younger generation and a natural inclination toward digital information is one. The escalating cost of paper and ink is another. However, and it guts this newspaper man that a significant reason for the decline of newspaper is that those who produce local newspapers are out of touch with their readership. They push an agenda that nobody’s buying rather than producing news that reflects and informs their communities. I see that exact thing happening with Tennessee’s larger urban newspapers and I see it in other cities around the country.
Despite the apparent death spiral, I believe there is a simple solution to solving the problem. Just ask people what they want to read and give it to them.
That’s exactly what we’ve done with your state Baptist newspaper, the Baptist and Reflector.
You may have noticed that the Baptist and Reflector has experienced significant changes over the past two years. It’s gone from weekly to bi-weekly and it’s undergone a major redesign. We’ve launched an online version (BaptistandReflector.org) and a Facebook page (Facebook.com/TnBaptist). You, our readers, had a lot to do with those changes. You know that fence post wisdom that warns about asking a Baptist for their opinion for fear they’ll give it to you? Well, we ignored it and asked anyway. You definitely gave us your opinion and we’re glad you did.
When asked in a survey what you wanted your state Baptist newspaper to be, overwhelmingly 66 percent of you responded that you wanted to, “read news about Tennessee Baptists and Tennessee Baptist churches.” In response, Editor Lonnie Wilkey has led his team to root out those great stories about how Tennessee Baptists are reaching Tennessee and reaching the nations for the purpose of changing the world around them.
Also, Lonnie’s team has committed itself to providing our readers with news that helps inform the biblical worldview of Tennessee Baptists. His team is tackling the hard issues facing Tennesseans. In the past two years, the Baptist and Reflector has addressed drug, alcohol, and other addictions. There was an issue dedicated to the same-sex marriage ruling. Teens and pornography was another important issue. Abortion another. Poverty another. I just looked at his planning board and there is plenty of reason for you to stay tuned (and subscribed) to the Baptist and Reflector.
Sunday, Aug. 28, is Baptist and Reflector Day. We set aside that Sunday every year to make a push for a larger readership. Yes, we’d like to increase subscriptions (which are only $15 for the year). However, we believe we live in an age when Christians need good news about Kingdom work being done in a hostile world, and could use some solid help knowing how to navigate our increasingly hostile culture. We believe every issue of the Baptist and Reflector delivers on both, and we want it to positively influence more Tennessee Baptists.
The Baptist and Reflector is far from dead or dying. In fact, it is quite healthy. We have 24,500 print subscribers and according to industry standards, that figure conservatively translates to 60,000-plus readers. We send our weekly e-newsletter to more than 17,500 people, 22 percent of which open the e-mail. Industry standards say anything over 20 percent indicates an engaged audience (but we already knew that). And, the readership of our BaptistandReflector.org website is steadily climbing. Since last October’s launch, we’ve had more than 56,000 unique readers who have tallied more than 200,000 page views.
The Baptist and Reflector carries 180-plus years of serving Tennessee Baptists and we believe its best days are ahead of it. If you or your church has an interest in a subscription or would like more information about the Baptist and Reflector, please call Mary Nimmo at 615-371-7929.