If it's true-and it certainly is-that the news media of our culture are overwhelmingly secularist and humanistic in their perspective, we Christians have two options: We can try to change what is out there, or we can seek to provide some suitable alternatives. Those of us associated with WORLD magazine keep seeking to do both.
WORLD magazine itself is approaching its 20th birthday. From its improbable launch in March 1986, we've understood how overwhelming the odds have been that we would even survive in the production of a weekly package of news and analysis. It was an even less probable thing that we would find broad acceptance for what we produced. WORLD is a modest alternative-but it is an alternative, and 135,000 subscribers regularly affirm its importance in their lives. We look forward to our birthday year in 2006 as an opportunity to reflect on some of the good things that have happened in our first two decades.
Yet neither should Christians ever assume that they cannot make a difference in the secular world that first drove them to the alternative expressions. So that is our target on another front of our organization-World Journalism Institute. WJI was established in 1999 and evolved quickly into an enterprise quite separate from WORLD itself as a basis for equipping young Christians with aspirations for working in the secular press.
Under the leadership of executive director Robert Case, WJI has flourished beyond all expectations. In a variety of settings, several hundred students have enrolled in a curriculum designed specifically to help serious Christians understand the ideologically pluralistic context dictated in today's media world, and still to be faithful to their biblical commitments as they approach their work.
That isn't easy. The temptation on the one hand is to try to use the public media as a bully pulpit for Christian evangelism or apologetics. The temptation on the other hand is to leave all Christian zeal behind and to fit in with the crowd-buying into the idea that every opinion in the marketplace is as valid as every other opinion. WJI strives to help its students fashion a nuanced but biblically faithful middle course. It is an assignment, as I suggested before, quite different from that of WORLD magazine itself. But it is an assignment that WORLD supports.
Under the WJI umbrella, 50-60 students each year gather for intensive study together in any of three settings. WJI's three-week course in May is hosted by King's College at the Empire State Building in New York City. The three-week course in June is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., at Regent University's wonderful facilities in Alexandria, Va. And the July course comes on the campus of Biola University in suburban Los Angeles.
In each of those settings, Mr. Case and his assistant Kim Collins (who together constitute WJI's entire full-time staff) offer students an outstanding faculty that includes (1) some WORLD reporters and writers; (2) Christian professors of journalism and related fields from both private and public institutions of higher learning; and (3) Christian practitioners of journalism from the secular media. The instruction is intense while the students are gathered, but they also take home with them reporting and writing assignments that tend to stretch over the following four to six months.
Out of this program have already come WJI grads who then found positions at the FOX news channel in Washington, D.C., at The Washington Times, at radio station WGKA in Atlanta, at the ABC affiliate in Boise, Idaho, and at The Bellingham Herald in Washington, among others.
Indeed, so much has been happening so fast that Mr. Case has now proposed anchoring WJI's program after next year right in New York City, where he believes WJI can take even fuller advantage of the opportunity to weave its graduates' vocational opportunities into the fabric of the nation's secular media. "Recruiting will be enhanced," he says, "and moving to New York City will provide better opportunities for our students to cover national news stories. But most important, WJI can continue building relationships with the newspapers and other media outlets that actually hire in this field. Being right there is important."
Even if such a move to New York City proves feasible, WJI operates with remarkable efficiency. It gets a lot of bang for every dollar invested. Nonetheless, virtually all its revenue comes from the generous gifts of people who understand the importance not only of providing alternatives to the secular media, but alternatives as well to the people who shape those media. Your use of the envelope inserted next to this page will increase the likelihood that more Christians will be there to do that shaping in the years ahead.