As a result of ongoing economic challenges, North Carolina Baptist’s Biblical Recorder has entered into an 18-month management agreement with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that will sustain the nearly 190-year-old publication and help it continue serving its readers for now, said Chris Hefner, chair of BR’s board of directors.
The agreement, Hefner said in a June 17 statement released by BR, will allow the state convention to manage the day-to-day operations of the publication beginning July 1.
For the duration of 2022, the Biblical Recorder will continue to publish its monthly magazine. It will also release news through BRnow.org, its weekly newsletter, and on social media. Allan Blume will continue to serve as interim editor until July 31. The statement did not elaborate on additional changes that could be announced prior to the conclusion of the agreement set for December 2023.
Founded in 1833, the BR has provided news coverage for North Carolina Baptists. While the BR, like other state Baptist publications, has navigated its share of challenges throughout its existence, the changing media landscape and the impact of COVID-19 has drastically affected the BR’s bottom line, the statement noted.
“In 2020 the board approved the move from a biweekly paper to a monthly magazine in order to reduce costs,” Hefner said in the statement. “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,” the statement said. “Given these factors, the current business trajectory of the Biblical Recorder is unstable.”
As a result of the publication’s current economic situation, the statement said, the board members concluded in their March board meeting they would be unable to hire a full-time executive editor, a position that was left vacant last August when Seth Brown accepted the role of director of convention relations with the state convention.
The discussion in the March meeting would lead to a motion to appeal to convention leadership “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.”
Look for additional updates on the Biblical Recorder to come as they are available.
See full statement below:
The future of the Biblical Recorder
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.