Monday, December 13, 2010

Baptist Press unleashed...or shorter leash?

Baptist Press, that venerable news outfit that we've been used to for all these decades is yet again shuffled around in the grand scheme of SBC things. You'll have to go to Associated Baptist Press to get a brief summary of the history of changes in where BP fits in the SBC organizational chart, and that's part of the problem, having to go outside of BP to find some news.

Baptist Press will do their work directed by a veteran news guy, Art Toalston, who works under two non-news guys, Roger "Sing" Oldham, Vice President for Convention Communications and ultimately Frank Page, CEO of our Executive Committee.

The change cuts some high dollar positions out of the Executive Committee staff (although two notable high dollar positions, that of Ken Hemphill and Bobby Welch, should receive scrutiny, particularly the former, if we're serious about saving a few hundred thousand here and there), which I like. But will BP thrive, improve, stay the same, or decline in this new slot?

Guess we will have to wait and see.

BP's ultimate leader, Frank Page makes it clear that there will be no micromanaging of Baptist Press, so reports Baptist Press, BP won't be micromanaged, Page says. We can be forgiven if we wait and see if he means what he says.

Baptist Press is, well, I'm not sure what. It should be the SBC’s news source but for some time it has fallen short of that. Perhaps we could call Baptist Press the SBC’s limited journalistic effort at reporting to Southern Baptists and others some news of note.

Seems to me, and I’ve read BP for decades and have gotten every news feed BP emails out for years, that you can expect BP not to cover some news that is noteworthy to the religious press because it is negative to Southern Baptists. Perhaps that is unfair. It is my subjective opinion. Recently, some people complained about BP being unfair and unbalanced in the reporting about the Great Commission Task Force the past couple of years. Perhaps.

Isn't it ironic that BP is criticized today for story selection, what to write about and what to ignore, just like it was 20 years ago when its leaders were fired because the powers that be didn't like their story selection?

Neither Page nor Oldham have journalistic experience. Both are good men. Perhaps they will do the right thing and give BP enough independence to be something other than an SBC puff publication. We've got SBC Life for that.

It remains to be seen if BP will thrive or be stifiled in this arrangement. One has to admit that while the organization chart has been changed, there isn’t much difference between Morris Chapman having BP under his authority and Frank Page.

Frank, Sing…let the guys go with the news wherever it comes from and wherever it takes us.

Frankly, I’m tired of having to read Associated Baptist Press to get stuff BP didn’t cover but should have.

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