For almost two centuries, the Biblical Recorder (BR) has been the news outlet for North Carolina Baptists. Over the past four decades news media has changed, shifting from newspapers to conglomerate media outlets, to the internet and to social media. Throughout these changes, the BR has remained the primary news source for N.C. Baptists. Under the leadership of our last two editors, the BR has sustained a theologically conservative viewpoint while retaining high journalism standards. Even so, the changing landscape of news media has drastically affected the BR.
Last fall, I appointed a search committee for the editor position of the BR. The committee was made up of current board members: Devin Goins, Marty Childers, Bartley Wooten, Lesley Hildreth, Chris Hefner and Sonny Sweatman; new board member Marc Reynolds; rotating-off board member Cindy Jennings; and at-large member, Amy Whitfield.
From November 2021 through March 2022, the editor search committee worked to find the next executive editor. This committee developed a candidate profile, advertised the position, queried potential candidates, received resumes and conducted interviews.
At our March 21, 2022, BR board meeting, the editor search committee provided an update to the board on our work and process. In short, our search committee did not recommend a candidate for the position of executive editor. The committee reasoned that the challenges of our business model, the shifting needs of news culture and the specific responsibilities of the editor made it untenable to hire a full-time editor.
The reality is that the pandemic affected the financial position of the BR significantly. In 2020 the board approved the move from a biweekly paper to a monthly magazine in order to reduce costs. While this shift in strategy gave minimal relief, the pandemic negatively affected advertising revenue which has provided 30-35% of our budgeted income. This advertising revenue has not returned, which created a budget shortfall for the BR. Given these factors, the current business trajectory of the Biblical Recorder is unstable.
During our March board meeting, the board discussed these challenges in light of the search committee’s decision not to present a candidate as full-time editor. This conversation resulted in a motion to appeal to the leadership of the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) for input and for guidance regarding the future of the BR. The goal of these conversations was to find a way to sustain the BR as a news outlet while securing operational and/or directional support from the BSC.
From a desire to fulfill the trust of the messengers by looking out for the best interest of the BR and N.C. Baptists, the board has negotiated and signed a management agreement with the BSC. The BR has long been an entity of BSC and will remain so for the duration of the management agreement.
This agreement will keep BR functioning as a news source while integrating the workflow between BR staff and BSC communications staff. For the duration of 2022, readers should expect monthly magazines, news and analysis on BRnow.org, the weekly newsletter and regular posting on BR’s social media feeds.
BR’s board of directors would like to thank Allan Blume for his excellent work as interim editor. Blume has served N.C. Baptists well in pastoral positions as well as editor of the BR from 2012-19. Since October 2021, he has resumed many of his previous duties for the BR, helping the staff and board of directors navigate this transitional period. Blume’s role as interim editor will expire July 31, 2022, one month after the start date for the management agreement, July 1, 2022.
The executive committee of the BSC affirmed the management agreement in a called meeting on June 17.
Thank you for your subscriptions, readership and support of the BR as a trusted, Baptist news source.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Hefner is the senior pastor of Wilkesboro Baptist Church and chairman of the Biblical Recorder’s board of directors.)