Columnists > From the Publisher

Not just a job

The news business is an adventure

Issue: "Reno Under Fire," April 26, 1997

It's budget time at WORLD magazine, and I'm trying to get a handle on how big a staff it will take to accomplish everything on our agenda between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 1998.

The bottom line answer: Not very. Experts from the field of publishing visit our operation from time to time, and their observations are unanimous. WORLD, they say, is a very efficient operation. In its current fiscal year, WORLD employs the equivalent of just 23 full-time people. Those 23 people do all the work involved in bringing you 40 issues of this magazine-except for the actual printing, which is contracted to an outside firm. The 23 people are deployed approximately this way:

Editorial (reporters, writers, editors) 6

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Layout, design, graphics 2

Customer service 3

Distribution, mailing 2

Advertising 2

Marketing 3

Finance and accounting 1

Computer services 2

Administration 2

Because of WORLD's growth on several fronts-including a surprise I can't tell you about in detail for several more weeks-we expect those 23 people to increase to 27 for our next fiscal year. But even with the addition of four people, I think you'll agree WORLD packs a big wallop in evangelicalism with a remarkably small staff.

My concern, however, goes a good bit beyond our own staff for the coming year. With WORLD editor Marvin Olasky, who teaches journalism at the University of Texas in Austin, I'd like to see this magazine involved in aggressive efforts to ensure that five, 10, and 25 years from now there are not only a few dozen, but hundreds and perhaps even thousands of skilled men and women ready to take up the task of news journalism and publishing.

Several key distinctions are important:

**red_square**&quotSkill" covers a lot of ground. There are professional skills, to be sure, and they are essential. But skills of perception and ideological commitment are no less important. Good writers who have nothing to say need not apply.

**red_square**The field of publishing is huge. It takes a comprehensive team to make things work. Reporting, writing, editing, photography, layout, and design are the glamor occupations. Yet all those folks would go nowhere without two or three times as many skilled people in other fields like finance, marketing, customer service, and information services. Capital investors are also needed. &quotSkilled" in these fields, as in the others, implies a need for a big worldview.

**red_square**There's a difference between news journalism and public relations. The cause needs people gifted in both areas-but they'll be separately deployed. In the Evangelical Press Association, for example, of which WORLD is a member publication, most of the 300 other members exist primarily to promote particular organizations. WORLD and just a handful of others devote themselves exclusively to news. It's news with a viewpoint, to be sure-or what Marvin Olasky calls &quotdirected reporting." But it's not public relations. (On the other hand, Doug Trouten, a news journalist in Minneapolis, tells us that there are now about 60 metropolitan and regional newspapers across the country being published by Christians.)

**red_square**Some people want to do this work in the employ of media with explicitly Christian commitments. Others are eager to act as salt in the secular news media. Both, we believe, are valid goals. But anyone planning to get involved needs to know how different the ground rules are.

**red_square**There's a difference too between amateurs and veterans. I'm constantly impressed how many people in every field believe that commitment means as much as talent and/or experience. The cause needs many more people who are willing to start at the bottom, prove their gifts, and work their way up over a lifetime.

Still with me? If you've dropped yourself through all those grids and still know who you are, maybe we should talk.

Not that WORLD magazine has a position for you right now, or maybe even during the next year, or maybe ever. But those of us with a specific interest in the publication of news from a Christian perspective need to know each other better, share information more frequently, and maybe even sit down with each other now and then.

With those goals in mind, I'm planning to start keeping a much more orderly database about such people. We'll include all the basic information about backgrounds and skills and qualifications-but we'll also include aspirations and long-range professional goals. If the Christian editor of a secular daily newspaper wants to hire a Christian with an interest in sports or education or even gardening, we want to be able to provide such information. If a graduate of a Christian college in Kansas wants to write about politics in Asia, we want to let that person know what employment opportunities are out there. For now, just write me with whatever details seem pertinent. In a few months, we may develop a standard form for you to fill in.


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