A very wise man told me many years ago that a publishing enterprise, to be successful, needs a good enemy.
“And I don’t mean that just in general,” he said. “You need someone who, when you’re talking to your subscribers and your supporters, is easy for them to visualize with an ugly face and with horns on. Mention this adversary, and right away, your readers’ blood pressure will go up several degrees.”
“Don’t let yourself fall into the trap,” he warned, “of becoming the March of Dimes after polio got licked.”
So who, I ask years later, is WORLD’s enemy now? What evil people or causes do we need to keep highlighting if we’re going to persuade you to keep reading WORLD, keep renewing your subscription when it comes due, and keep sending us a few gift subscriptions now and then for your friends?
The list is long. The organization that publishes WORLD was first established to oppose theological liberalism. The “liberals” in the church were the enemy. Later, as our focus shifted to a broad spectrum of worldview issues, the enemy became abortion advocates and those who devalued life in favor of personal “freedom.” The foe included statist education, which more and more by definition became godless education—from elementary to secondary to college to graduate level bureaucracies. The adversary included big socialistic–type government, overweening in its power and inclination to squeeze out personal and religious liberties in favor of the “common good.”
But increasingly, during the 26 years we’ve been publishing WORLD, it’s become clearer and clearer that the “enemy” most important for us to keep in focus is the dishonest and untrustworthy news media out there that so constantly and predictably make it hard to oppose all those other enemies. More and more, those media outlets present a false or at least badly warped view of what’s going on in the world.
WORLD’s specific task is not so much to make the case for pro-life organizations; not so much to argue for choice in education; and not so much to fight for a free market view of economics. Our task is first, last, and always simply to tell the truth about what’s going on in the world—with full confidence that God will use that truth to highlight who the bad guys really are, to smoke them out of the hiding places the mainstream media have so generously allowed them. (And through the whole process, we never dare forget Jesus’ tough instruction to “love our enemies”!)
WORLD doesn’t have to engage in propaganda or public relations. We don’t have to embellish the truth. We don’t have to make good people, good organizations, and good causes look better than they really are. All we have to do is to tell the truth. A true story—any good journalist’s most treasured product—is a powerful tool.
But truth-telling is also a costly enterprise. Writing PR copy is less expensive than writing a well-sourced, carefully confirmed, and double-checked news story. Telling the truth occasionally offends an advertiser, and we lose that revenue. But our obligation is first to our readers. We work for you, and not first and foremost for our advertisers. And yes, sometimes our truth-telling also prompts a reader to cancel his subscription. That hurts.
That’s why, once a year, I’m privileged to use this space in WORLD to invite you again to help us oppose our main enemy—the truth-trashers, or anyone who puts dampers of any kind on our freedom to be truth-tellers. You’ve already subscribed to WORLD. But now, your gift of $25, $50, $100, or more offers us liberty to encourage our reporters, writers, and editors to spread their journalistic wings in the tumultuous months just ahead. There’s a self-addressed envelope in the printed publication right next to this column—or even easier, visit our secure online donation page.
Some readers, noting this comes toward the end of the tax year, regularly provide gifts of $1,000 or $2,500. And every year, I am bold to see if there might be a few of you ready to commit to a three-year gift of $5,000 annually. Those who say “yes” to that challenge, I’m guessing, are folks who take the enemy very seriously—but who take even more seriously the power of truth-telling to put that enemy on the run. To all of you: Welcome to our truth-telling team.