Impropriety?

Choosing whether to have my right leg or left leg cut off

Issue: "1st-grade murder," March 11, 2000

The New York Times last month attacked WORLD and me three times in 11 days. A friend, Russ Pulliam of The Indianapolis Star, wrote that such targeting means that WORLD is now "in the big leagues.... Their sputtering indicates that you have hit some nerve somewhere. So rejoice and keep up the good work." True enough, but one thing concerns me, and a letter from WORLD subscriber Bernie Diaz summed it up: "I was somewhat heartened by Mr. Olasky's response [in last week's issue] to Mr. Safire's recent tirade. I found the general tone and accuracy of Bob Jones IV's cover reporting of McCain to be appropriate. However, I am still a bit concerned about WORLD's integrity." Mr. Diaz asked some good, tough questions: "How appropriate was it for Bob Jones IV, son of Bush supporter and university president of the same name, to author an arguably accurate yet overwhelmingly negative article? Bearing in mind Mr. Olasky's obvious influence on content, recusion notwithstanding, can the magazine report on Governor Bush's campaign objectively? Perceptions are important." Indeed they are, and we're navigating uncharted waters here. Here's how I see it, and I welcome reader feedback. First, concerning Bob Jones IV. As I suggested last week, he has no ties (except those of family) to Bob Jones University. As veteran WORLD readers know, he has done a terrific job as a Washington reporter for us since 1997. Last year, when I assigned him to presidential campaign reporting, no one knew that Bob Jones University would become an issue. But had we known, would I have taken him off this beat? Reasons not to: We have a small staff, he's an excellent and accurate reporter, and he's committed to telling the truth about any candidate he covers. Reasons to: Safire-types who play guilt by association might jump on him. Overall, I believe it would have been wrong to pull Bob off the assignment. He has paid his dues. He deserved the assignment. If some people want to be bigots in the name of anti-bigotry, so be it. I don't have as clean a judgment concerning my own situation. Over the past decade my major commitments, beyond family, church, and teaching, have been to the advance of biblical poverty-fighting and biblical journalism. If some see impropriety now, it's because I could not decide between the two. A year ago I could have backed out of one. Gov. George W. Bush and I have talked occasionally since 1993, and we met last February when he decided that in his campaign for the presidency he would emphasize the importance of faith-based charities, the overwhelming majority of which are biblical in orientation. When he asked me to help flesh out some ideas for his campaign I could have said no, but I agreed to help out unofficially for several months. Last fall I could have backed out of my other commitment. After I was identified in the press as a Bush supporter, I recused myself from editing presidential campaign coverage until the nomination battle was over, but maybe I should have taken a leave of absence from WORLD entirely. That would have been difficult, given our small staff, and I stayed on. Notice the way I've phrased both decisions altruistically: for the good of biblical ministries, for the good of WORLD. That's our common, fallen way of defending ourselves, but let's be honest-I really stayed on because I personally would have had a miserable time doing otherwise. Whenever I think of abandoning either biblical journalism or biblical poverty-fighting, I realize how much I'm committed to both. Ask me whether I'd like my right leg or my left leg cut off. Anyway, if we now have any appearance of impropriety, it's my fault and I take responsibility-although I still don't see that there was any perfect way out. I can assure readers that managing editor Nick Eicher, who is directing campaign coverage, feels and is completely free to call 'em as he sees 'em. And here's a bigger assurance: WORLD is devoted to biblically directed reporting of whatever happens, good or bad. We do not worship any politician or cover up problems. Nor will WORLD move away from our biblical theology in any way. When I wrote early this year that we were tweaking the magazine with the hope of reaching non-Christians as well as Christians, a few readers were alarmed: Is this magazine heading down the slippery slope to secularism? Allow me to speak softly: NO. We want a magazine so provocative and evocative that it will be essential reading even for those at The New York Times who despise us. And who knows-a sovereign God may use our humble words on paper to grab some of them, as He grabbed me.

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Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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