At religious journalists’ conferences held in various parts of the nation, it is possible sometimes to see spread on the tables as many as several hundred religious papers and magazines. These displays often are adequate cross sections of what is being published by the Protestant or Catholic bodies (such exhibits of Jewish publications are rare). The sight is at the same time appalling, inspiring, and disturbing.
It is appalling because of the technical drabness and amateurishness of many of the publications. So much of the writing is slovenly and cliché-ridden, and so much of the editing results in routine and lifeless journalism.
It is inspiring, on the other hand, because of the editorial courage and vigor of more and more of these publications, by comparison with those of a quarter of a century ago, even though those presenting forceful and brave ideas still are in the minority.
What is disturbing is the generally enthusiastic approval of the publications by these people at the long tables, who often are would-be or actual writers for them or editors. They look approvingly at these scores of often colorful periodicals pouring from church school editorial offices, denominational publishing houses, special boards, and independent publishers. The reactions of these semi-professional readers as well as those of the regular subscribers, as revealed by reader studies, lead me to raise here what I think is an important question. It is:
What do readers in general expect of their religious papers and magazines?
Not much, evidently, or they would be less satisfied than they are with the press of this country’s religious bodies.
Is the reaction contentment or merely indifference?
It is, of course, both. No researcher has discovered yet ...1
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