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Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Slingshot victories

Whatever the outlook for journalism's Goliaths, the future for WORLD looks bright

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

"Don't worry." The thoughtful counselor was trying to pick up his friend's spirits. "Cheer up! Things could be worse."

"So I cheered up," the friend reported. "And sure enough-things got worse."

Almost certainly, from my perspective, the fellow needing help was from one of the nation's biggest newspapers (like The New York Times), or one of its long influential magazines (like U.S. News & World Report), or one of its major broadcasting networks (remember Walter Cronkite?). Throughout the mainstream media, things are very bad indeed. Calamity, disaster, and ruin are not just the story line mainstream journalists are reporting. They've become the story of those businesses themselves.

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So why are we at WORLD magazine, and the news group growing around WORLD, not in the dumps about things? Why don't we see the glass right now the way so many media people see it-as 90 percent empty?

Some suggest it's because we're naïve-that we haven't taken a thoughtful measure of how bad things really are for the media, for business in general, and for the world at large. They hear us say we want to be culture changers-bringing salt and light to a hurting and hurtful society all around us-but they say we have a bloated sense of what we can do about it. We're kidding ourselves, they say, if we think we can even make a dent on things.

Well, certainly we don't want to be unrealistic. But if cold-eyed realism had always been the main determinant, we wouldn't have launched WORLD magazine 25 years ago. We wouldn't have kept throwing good money after bad through a dozen years of red ink-when we tried everything and still couldn't build a paid circulation of more than 12,000. From the beginning of the WORLD (and the double meaning is intentional), vision has always counted for more than faithless realism. In God's scheme of things, it's always been that way.

But maybe never more than now. In our early years, there was no question who the Davids were among publishers-and who were the modern-day Goliaths. Even compared to some of its counterparts among religious periodicals, WORLD had little more to offer than a slingshot. Our technique was never to build a giant corporate entity, or to raise billions of dollars in capital. Our goal was instead to demonstrate journalistically that God honors those who put Him first, who strive to live by a biblical worldview, who seek to change the world, little by little, through the application of that worldview.

But God still knows how to use slingshots. At the right time-for us, at least-critical tools like desktop publishing, the internet, and cell phones all came along just as one publishing Goliath after another took a tumble. Unexpectedly, the huge gaps between them (the Goliaths) and us (the Davids) shrank. Unexpectedly, we were publishing more issues than some of them were. Unexpectedly, many of our issues were thicker than theirs. Unexpectedly, we were doing more firsthand reporting from foreign countries than some of them were.

To be sure, all this still took some significant investment. But because God was using slingshots rather than massive armor, it's been taking a lot less investment than we imagined a decade or two ago. Which means, as we come to the end of the year and my annual request that you consider a gift to WORLD, that I don't have to ask you for billions of dollars but mere thousands instead!

For many of you, that will mean gifts in the $25, $40, and $100 range. Some of you will buoy us up with gifts of $500 and $1,000. And I am asking that a few of you might be moved to commit to give $5,000 a year for the next three years; call or write me about that, and we'll sit down and talk about how many slingshots that will buy! I hope you read Publisher Nick Eicher's column on p. 3 in our last (Nov. 19) issue, where he detailed some of the projects our WORLD news group is taking on-including a new weekly radio news program.

Tough days indeed for publishers. But instead of getting worse, we really see things as getting wonderfully better. Visit our secure online donations page to be part of that exciting improvement.


Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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