Columnists > Voices

Progress report

A changing WORLD amid a subjective TIME

Issue: "Can't run or hide," Oct. 14, 2006

WORLD is not a loose cannon, although you may be fooled at first glance. Our editorial staff is first and foremost under the authority of the Bible. Our second authority, though, is our board of directors-and the third authority, our subscribers, also keeps us from rolling across the deck.

Our directors meet this week as they do two other times each year. They are tremendously supportive, even when-especially when-we occasionally have to get into battles with other Christian organizations or individuals. (Magazine editors who get together commonly grumble about what their boards or business executives force them to do, but I have no mournful stories to offer.)

This time I'm offering the board some stats about our stories. During the summer, intern Jessica McCaleb and I compared what WORLD covered in 2005 with what it covered 13 years before, which is the last time I did such an analysis. We also compared WORLD's coverage last year with that of our most popular secular competitor, TIME.

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Since you, dear subscriber, represent the third authority to which we report, here are those facts. First, WORLD grew from 960 pages published in 1992 to 2,568 in 2005. WORLD back then had 244 advertising pages and 764 news/editorial pages; last year it had 983 advertising pages (38 percent of the issue) and 1,585 news/editorial pages (62 percent). So, we have more advertising (which some readers dislike) but more than twice as many news/editorial pages (which the ads help to pay for).

Second, we classify our current articles as national (59 percent), international (15 percent), and cultural (26 percent), although the dividing lines often are not firm. Those percentages have changed little over the years, but the composition of that triad has. We have quadrupled our coverage of science and medicine, economics, sports, movies, music, and television, and also quadrupled our coverage of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Other changes aren't as dramatic. We have 50 percent more coverage of government, politics, education, books, religious organizations, and poverty-fighting. While our international coverage has doubled overall, we have less coverage of Europe. We have about the same amount of coverage of life issues such as abortion and hot-button social issues such as homosexuality.

The comparison with TIME on such subjects is interesting. Liberals like to think that Christian conservatives are obsessed with homosexuality, but WORLD had less coverage of that than TIME. We did have more coverage of life issues, and that's as it should be: Life-and-death questions trump others.

Overall, Jessica's survey of TIME showed that it averaged 83 pages per issue while WORLD averaged 51, but 49 percent of TIME was advertising (compared to our 38 percent). Still, TIME had 39 percent more news/editorial pages than we did, which gave it the opportunity to cover some areas much more in depth. For example, WORLD last year had more on Africa than TIME but less on other areas of the world.

TIME had a lot more coverage of politics than WORLD did. We had more on music but less on television, more on sports but less on cars, more pages devoted to readers' letters but almost none devoted to "celebrities." We've improved our coverage of science and medicine over the last 13 years, but TIME beat us badly in those fields, and we want to do better.

The most important difference between TIME and WORLD, of course, is spiritual. We believe that the heavens declare the glory of God and the streets proclaim the sinfulness of man. TIME suggests that heaven and earth are merely material. We openly acknowledge our worldview and then try to show rather than tell.

But-and here's what lots of folks have a hard time understanding-we don't see ourselves as merely presenting one more subjective view of things. If we follow and apply accurately the teaching handed to us in the Bible by our prime director, God, we're objective-describing things as they really are. (That's a big "if," of course, and we always fall short.)

Since only an omniscient God can be truly objective, man's "objectivity" is inherently biased. TIME staffers, recognizing that, increasingly emphasize subjectivity, but that's no solution either. Our goal at WORLD is to keep trying to understand and present a biblically objective view of the world God has made.

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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