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World Magazine: taking citizen journalism to Christian publishing

For those who watch mainstream media with any frequency, you know how increasingly clear it is they are offended when they are not the first people considered when news needs to be broke. Political candidates are sometimes meeting with bloggers before—or with the same frequency—they meet with the mainstream media. Barak Obama, for instance, announced his vice presidential pick on Twitter—not at a Washington DC press conference.

Was this surprising? To some, yes. But with social media and citizen journalism taking a giant leap from the mainstream methods of delivering news, it was only a matter of time before a Christian news outlet jumped on board. So why wouldn’t this happen for the largest Christian news magazine? WORLD magazine is jumping in with both feet.

At the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting, WORLD magazine held a meeting with a small group of students titled “Want to report for WorldMag.com?”  

WORLD magazine is connected with the World Journalism Institute. The mission of this institute is “to recruit, equip, place and encourage Christians in the newsrooms of America first and then the world.” WORLD magazine is moving itself from a news magazine to a news organization, offering audio, video, blogs, an iPad application, and in the future, a Kindle application through a revamped website.

One might ask why WORLD magazine reached out to students in their search for citizen journalists at the country’s largest conservative conference. There are three likely reasons: students are excited about the opportunity to help and have the ambition to do it (usually). The last reason is that they do not need to unlearn the old mode of journalism and news distribution. Young people understand that social media and citizen journalism is news reporting of the future. To avoid it is to avoid reality.

Warren Smith, associate publisher of WORLD magazine, said they are theistic about religion and agnostic about technology. “We don’t know what the future holds for technology,” said Warren, but he made it clear that they were looking to ride the new wave of technology to promote a Christian worldview in the way we read the news.

Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD magazine, began his address to the students by appealing to a sports analogy of an experience he had in the press box of a major league baseball game. The home team scored a run and a few of the journalists were excited about the run. So to not appear biased or subjective the journalists tapped one hand on their desks. Olasky said, “I now know the sound of one hand clapping,” as the ancient says goes. He felt that the sound of one hand clapping, and totally objective journalism, was utterly insufficient because no sound is made. In the case of journalism, the mere facts aren’t enough. We need reporters to analyze what they see and help us understand the event they’re witnessing within a larger context.

On the other hand, he also feels that the current mode of subjective journalism is insufficient as well. It’s merely the sound of the other hand clapping. But without both hands clapping no sound is made and nothing of value is ever said. News needs to be more than just fact reporting and more than just opinions with often distorted facts.

“We try to apply God’s thoughts to today’s news,” said Olaskly. “Nothing is apart from Biblical objectivity.” As such, Olasky feels that there is a solid base of truth to begin journalism—and this is one of a Christian worldview.

WORLD magazine’s effort to draw in citizen journalists is likely going to revolutionize the way Christians view the reporting of news from this major publication. These people might first want to see how the mainstream media has used similar efforts to report on events internationally to understand the inevitable future of how Christian news outlets will deliver the news and interact with journalists.

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