By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Six years ago, Bob Smietana, then religion editor of The Tennessean in Nashville, wrote an article questioning the future of Baptist state papers and interviewed several editors, including myself. Smietana wrote that “Baptist papers face three major challenges: declining denominational loyalty, soaring print and postage costs, and the rise of online media.”
All three challenges are still valid today.
This year, the Baptist and Reflector is celebrating its 180th anniversary. The paper has at times thrived and survived.
Today, we seem to be doing both. In the last year the paper has produced some quality articles and stories that are helping our churches in their mission. In that sense we are thriving. We are being relevant and readers have noticed. For that we are grateful and blessed.
Our costs, however, continue to go up and some of our revenue from advertising and subscriptions have declined. Yet we trudge on thanks to the support of Tennessee Baptists who subscribe and those who support us through their Cooperative Program gifts.
Former editor Wm. Fletcher Allen wrote a brief history of the paper in 2005 in observance of the B&R‘s 170th anniversary.
Allen noted that editors of the B&R over the years “recognized their responsibility to ‘trust the Lord and tell the people.’ From handset type to sophisticated computerized efficiency, they managed not only to survive, but also to tell the story. Though they struggled with lack of funding, hard times and wars, doctrinal and scriptural disputes, through the years they firmly established a good reputation for the paper. They knew that churches and people, in order to make good decisions, needed the news. The paper’s struggles to build readership and financial support was difficult. Things haven’t changed much since then.”
Chris Turner, TBC communications director, provides a good look at what the future holds for the B&R in his column.
I agree with his assessment. In order for the Baptist and Reflector to have a bright future changes will have to continue to take place.
We cannot rest on our laurels or past achievements. We must continue to tell the story of Tennessee Baptists in fresh, innovative ways.
This issue contains a new masthead which incorporates some of our heritage. More design changes are planned to enhance the readability of the paper.
Perhaps our biggest change will be the introduction of our website in a few weeks. This will replace the virtual paper that many of you are receiving. The website will be user friendly and you will be able to share articles more easily than before.
We are also revamping our current pricing schedule which will cause a slight increase. Keep in mind that we have not raised our rates in several years so bear with us. The new rates will be announced later, but we pledge to continue to be a “bargain.”
Thank you to all those who currently support us with prayers and your subscriptions. Encourage others to become a part of our “B&R family.” We need more subscribers. With your help the Baptist and Reflector will continue to tell the story of Tennessee Baptists. That is what has sustained the paper all these years and that is what will sustain it in the future. Most of all, I thank my Lord who has allowed me to serve Him and you as editor. To Him be all the glory and honor.