Two editors at the Chicago-based periodical Moody Monthly were forced to resign last month following the publication of a brief news article reflecting criticism of popular speaker and author Charles Swindoll. Mike Umlandt, 36, was managing editor at Moody Monthly for six years. Associate editor Larry Wilson, 33, had served there for two.

The topic of the controversial article was Swindoll’s purchase of a home near California’s Lake Arrowhead for about $1 million. Moody Monthly’s report, in its September issue, listed the home’s value at $2 million. Based on an Evangelical Press (EP) News Service story, the Moody account was devoted mainly to Swindoll’s critics. It stated that Swindoll was reluctant to discuss the matter.

Inaccurate Report

Jerry Jenkins, vice-president for periodicals at Moody Bible Institute (MBI,) said that the controversy surrounding Swindoll’s house, though not the purchase of the house itself, was a legitimate news story. But Jenkins said the Moody Monthly account “was inaccurate because it was incomplete.” He said, “It was a major mistake not to try to contact Swindoll,” adding, “We don’t want to appear to be slanting the news, especially against those we know to be credible.”

Umlandt and Wilson acknowledged they were wrong for not attempting to contact Swindoll. Umlandt explained that other news stories were consuming staff time, and that the EP story had indicated Swindoll would not talk anyway. Umlandt noted also that he and Wilson depended on Moody Monthly’s periodicals director, 20-year veteran Bob Flood, to screen articles inappropriate for publication.

Jenkins said that Flood, the highest-ranking staff member to see the article prior to its publication, realized his mistake immediately. Said Jenkins, “We see this admittedly as a black eye on Bob’s record, but as a glitch on an otherwise sterling career.” In contrast, Jenkins said, for Umlandt and Wilson, the Swindoll story was not an isolated incident. “We saw a gap between their philosophy and ours,” he said, “as it relates to what a news section in a magazine like ours should be and do.”

Umlandt acknowledges having had several confrontations with his superiors at Moody, including disputes over the types of news article the magazine should print. Wilson, however, had no history of similar disputes, according to Umlandt. “For two years, Larry has done nothing but excellent work in news reporting and editing,” Umlandt said.

No One Checked

Swindoll said his major complaint is that several Christian publications ran some version of the EP story without first contacting him (see following interview). The EP story was based exclusively on an article that appeared in the Orange County Register, identified erroneously by EP as the Fullerton Register.

Doug Trouten, director of EP News Service and author of the disputed EP article, said his normal practice is to call for a response from those being criticized. Trouten said, however, that because the Register article stated Swindoll was not talking, he did not consider it good use of time and resources to call Swindoll.

Responding to how his story was used, Trouten said, “I am not the final editor of EP News Service material.” He said it is up to the editors of publications subscribing to EP to “make decisions on how to use [EP] material, based on their own editorial standards, the purpose of their publication, and their understanding of their audience.”

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