Panel ponders role of Baptist paper
June 7 2002 by Lacy Elwood , Associated Baptist Press

Panel ponders role of Baptist paper | Friday, June 7, 2002

Friday, June 7, 2002

Panel ponders role of Baptist paper

By Lacy Elwood Associated Baptist Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Is the Baptist state paper a newspaper, or is it primarily for promotion?

That's the question before an ad hoc panel studying the future role of the Illinois Baptist, the journal of the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA).

The committee, consisting of five pastors, was formed after the newspaper reported in January that a former Southern Illinois pastor had been charged with two counts of criminal sexual assault involving teenage girls.

The article, carried on page one, prompted numerous letters to the editor both criticizing the paper for running the story and defending the editor's decision.

Calling the article a "very sensitive issue," panel chair Richard VanCleave said the committee's goal is to "set up guidelines so it doesn't happen again."

"We are trying to decide on what the Illinois Baptist is supposed to be; a strict, free press where the editor has free reign, or a newspaper that deals more with IBSA's missions and goals," VanCleave, the pastor of Lynwood Baptist Church in Oswego, said.

Larry Richmond, IBSA president, said he believes the paper needs to become more of a communication tool for the state association.

"It would be great if the newspaper could handle both substantive news of the IBSA and articles that would encourage churches and promote our mission," Richmond said. "In the past year or two, it seems the paper has gotten away from that."

Richmond said the purpose statement of IBSA focuses on starting new churches and supporting the churches already in existence.

The IBSA constitution contains a statement that says, "The Illinois Baptist shall be the official newspaper of the association and as such, shall never be construed as the exclusive instrument of any special group, individual, body or committee within the association."

The committee has completed a tentative mission statement for the newspaper and is currently working to create guidelines for the paper. VanCleave said the committee will discuss these guidelines and the possible creation of an advisory board to the paper in an upcoming conference call in June.

VanCleave said the committee does not want to "micromanage" the paper, but does want to set up some rules for the editor, who works under the IBSA's executive director.

"There is no defining policy that gives direction to the editor of what the Illinois Baptist should be," Richmond said. "The content has been determined by the editor in the past because of a lack of guiding policy. We want to give him some direction as to what we (IBSA) think will most benefit churches."

In a May 15 Illinois Baptist article, the committee said the role of an advisory board would be to give feedback to the editor about published articles. The committee also said the advisory board would not have any veto power over what articles should be printed.

Richmond said the intent of an advisory board would be to give the editor a place to go to for advice.

"Right now, we have one person making the decisions," Richmond said. "He doesn't have any group to bounce ideas off of or seek advice from on relevant issues."

The new mission statement of the paper includes supporting IBSA's mission and publishing "timely, objective and accurate accounts of news and events of interest to Southern Baptists, with emphasis on Illinois Baptist concerns."

VanCleave said the committee read other state Baptist newspapers and researched their policies. He said he found the Illinois Baptist to "be one of the best."

The committee includes VanCleave; Bruce Cullers, pastor of First Baptist of Eldorado; Brian Fuller, pastor of Towerview Baptist of Belleville; Dwight McDaniel, pastor of Shiloh Baptist in Bridgeport; and Allen Speers, pastor of First Baptist of Golconda.

Michael Leathers currently serves as editor of the Illinois Baptist.

The committee is scheduled to bring its recommendations about the future role of the 95-year-old paper at the IBSA board meeting in September. VanCleave said the board would in turn present the panel's proposal to IBSA members at their annual meeting in November.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Lacy Elwood, a student at Baylor University, is ABP's summer intern.)

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6/7/2002 12:00:00 AM by Lacy Elwood , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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