This issue celebrates the 60th anniversary of this magazine. That is no small accomplishment in our media environment. Our continued success is in large part due to the fact that you, gentle reader of the print magazine, have subscribed to receive it.
But you, O Subscriber, are becoming an endangered species. And that is a serious problem not only for our livelihood, but for our nation and the church.
While watching the movie Spotlight, I couldn’t help marveling at the team of journalists doing the painstaking reporting—phone calls, interviews, research, and so forth—required to uncover something as entrenched as child sexual abuse. Of the newspapers left standing amid today’s digital revolution, few can afford to give a team of journalists the time and budget to report a story that took years to unfold.
And there are fewer outlets that can do this. Metro dailies that have closed in the past few years include the Baltimore Examiner, The Cincinnati Post, and The Albuquerque Tribune. According to Columbia Journalism Review, reporters covering state capitals, for example, fell from 524 in 2003 to 355 in 2009. As that report put it, “What is under threat is independent reporting that provides information, investigation, analysis, and community knowledge, particularly in the coverage of local affairs.” One only has to remember Nixon’s Watergate or Clinton’s “emailgate” to realize that if journalists aren’t watching our leaders, their power often becomes more absolute—and more corrupt.
No one questions the value of journalism. Social media, blogs, and aggregators gobble up others’ expensive reporting and summarize it or riff on it, getting our eager clicks and pageviews. Everyone agrees journalism is crucial. It’s fascinating. It’s worth reading. It’s just not something we want to pay for.
“Isn’t it a great time to live?” we say. “To be able to go online any time, jump onto Facebook or Twitter or Google News, and read the latest, for free?” It is a great world.
But it won’t be for long if we don’t support men and women skilled in the art of research and reporting, in writing and editing, in marketing and design, in judging what to cover and how to cover it with depth and insight. This is not to say that newspapers are faultless. But amid the occasional instance of biased or sloppy reporting, most continue to serve their communities well.
For 60 years, Christianity Today editors have urged readers to love their neighbors by working to make our communities and nation more just and morally sound. One institution that attempts to do that day in and day out is the local and national newspaper. And one way to promote the common good is to support the work of the fourth estate. Subscribing to a newspaper is a simple and concrete way to contribute to the common good.
Our work as Christian journalists faces no fewer challenges. Since I joined CT in 1989, I’ve seen the closure of Moody Monthly, Eternity, and Discipleship Journal—to name but three fine journals among so many others. Over the years, we’ve had to close a few journals ourselves. Sometimes this was due to the changing marketplace. But more and more, it is because even Christians have become, to put it kindly, overly frugal. I say this as a co-conspirator at times. I too have attempted to circumvent paywalls and settled for weak regurgitations.
If we want accurate news and thoughtful commentary about contemporary Christianity, about what it means to live faithfully in today’s world, then collectively we have to agree to pay for it. Advertising has never carried the full load. Christian journals need loyal subscribers to allow them to do what they are doing. And since most are nonprofits, they also seek donations above and beyond the subscription price.
Naturally we at Christianity Today think this magazine we`ll worth subscribing to, as is sister publication Books & Culture. And our entire ministry is well worth donating to. But other Christian periodicals, depending on your perspective, deserve your support, from World to Charisma to Relevant to First Things, among many others. We need all these magazines and more if we are going to reflect the diversity and breadth of Christian faith in America.
One of the simplest ways to help the church stay relevant, vital, strong, and wise is to get your news and commentary from those who excel at producing it. So subscribe and donate, and make the world a better place.
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.
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