The lists are long on both the personal and professional sides of my Thanksgiving ledger. Today there is one, professionally, that I raise in appreciation during this blessing-counting season.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that Congress will make no law abridging the freedom of the press. However, that freedom must ultimately be given by those in control of various news outlets.
I am particularly blessed to serve as editor of a truly autonomous news journal owned and operated by a Board of Directors (see below) with an unwavering commitment to editorial freedom and a free press.
Editorial freedom is sometimes misunderstood. It is not a license to be reckless, lazy or irresponsible.
In fact, editorial freedom increases responsibility for the most important aspects of journalism: honesty, integrity, relevance and competence.
Near the end of my work for a denominational-owned publication, an influential pastor and powerbroker in the state Baptist convention called to “instruct” me on how to write and place a news story to the advantage of his political aspirations. He even told me not to run an opposing view.
My journalistic and Christian ethics would not allow me to do so. And seeing that his ilk were gaining influence over the newspaper’s board signaled my need to find work elsewhere.
Such experiences make my gratitude even greater for the freedom I enjoy today. Editing is an odd mixture of art and science. Even those of us able and eager to balance freedom and responsibility don’t also find the exact mix.
However, I sleep well knowing that my mistakes are not ones of any intent to mislead readers or withhold information they deserve to know.
Editorial freedom granted by the highly-supportive Board of Directors of Baptists Today is rooted in a belief that the free flow of reliable information and the exchange of varied ideas and opinions (even through blogging!) are helpful to a society at large and to communities of faith.
That doesn’t mean I am free to slander, sloppiness or missed deadlines. Rather it is a overarching commitment to responsibly tell the story as best as we know it and to provide an open forum for readers to agree or disagree.
It is a commitment to keep news and opinion in their proper, unmixed places. It is a commitment that respects journalists and builds trust in the readership.
For that kind of responsible freedom, I am most grateful.
Baptists Today Board of Directors
Baptists Today, Inc. is 501(C)3 not-for-profit organization owned and operated by an independent Board of Directors.
Winnie V. Williams, Seneca, S.C. (chair)
Gary F. Eubanks, Marietta, Ga. (vice chair)
Z. Allen Abbott, Peachtree City, Ga.
Jimmy R. Allen, Big Canoe, Ga.
Ann T. Beane, Richmond, Va.
Kelly L. Belcher, Spartanburg, S.C.
Thomas E. Boland, Alpharetta, Ga.
Huey A. Bridgman, Columbus, Ga.
Robert M. Cates, Rome, Ga.
Anthony D. Clevenger, Pensacola, Fla.
Kenny Crump, Ruston, La.
James M. Dunn, Winston-Salem, N.C.
James L. Evans, Auburn, Ala.
W.M. Gilbert Jr., Lavonia, Ga.
R. Kirby Godsey, Macon, Ga.
Leslie D. Hill, Lexington, Ky.
Jimmy Little, Hartselle, Ala.
Michael M. Massar, Tyler, Texas
J. Thomas McAfee, Macon, Ga.
William T. Neal, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Ella Wall Prichard, Corpus Christi, Texas
Michael G. Queen, Wilmington, N.C.
Mary Etta Sanders, Dalton, Ga.
Charlotte Cook Smith, Raleigh, N.C.
David M. Smith, Houston, Texas
Sarah Timmerman, Cairo, Ga.
Clement H. White, St. Petersburg, Fla.