By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA – In a day when reports of demise for news media are common place, the Baptist Message is bucking the trend, according to Editor Will Hall.
“We have good news about your Louisiana Baptist Message,” Hall told board members during their recent spring meeting. “About what we’ve been able to do the last six months, what we are looking to do the next six months, and beyond that.”
Hall said the Message dedicated a good part of the year, so far, documenting recovery efforts after the record rainfall which devastated many parts of the state.
“Early in the season, our focus was on the flooding across the state and Louisiana Baptists’ response to the tragedy through our comprehensive disaster relief efforts,” Hall said. “More than 18,000 homes were affected, according to FEMA. Importantly, most of these were in the north where most of our churches are located and most of our DR volunteers. So we emphasized the valiant work of our DR teams.”
Hall reviewed several of the compelling stories published on the Message’s website and promoted through social media streams, and described how these articles translated into growth in online presence. The website and Facebook platforms now register an average 20,000 views per week for each.
Though the Message has reported on positive news around the state, the multi-media news outlet also has navigated difficult, controversial issues this year, Hall said.
This included the reportedly voluntary resignations by seasoned international Mission Board field missionaries, he said, and the firing of 30 IMB communicators with incredible credentials.
Hall explained the Message is not a “crusading, investigative outlet,” but added that when critical issues and developments arise and entities seem less than open about the matters, the news outlet must be willing to ask the questions and pursue the answers so that Louisiana Baptists are fully informed to participate in the Southern Baptist community of faith.
“We are committed to transparency and to informing Louisiana Baptists so they can capably serve in their critical role of directing the work of local associations, the state convention and the national denomination,” Hall said.
Looking ahead, the Message plans soon to launch the baptism promotion initiative announced in the fall. Hall said this special section on the website will feature photos of baptisms by Louisiana Baptist churches and this new feature will roll out with the launch of the newly designed online edition of the Message.
Hall reminded board members that inspiring more baptisms also is a focus in the print edition, with these stories assigned “top billing” on each front page.
Hall also announced his desire to emphasize soul-winning in 2017-2018 in conjunction with plans announced by the LBC to designate these as Harvest Years – a two-year initiative to share the Gospel in every home in Louisiana.
He said he had submitted a one-time funding request to the LBC Executive Board to print 175,000 copies of a special issue on the Harvest Initiative in order to attempt to reach every Louisiana Baptist household.
“We will be putting a greater focus on the LBC evangelism initiative for 2017 and 2018 to stress an ‘all hands on deck’ focus to get Louisiana Baptists engaged at all levels in the all-out effort to evangelize our state,” Hall said.
The trustees approved an operations policy manual that addresses issues such as editorials, letters to the editor, online comments, political advertising and obituaries.
The document also provides guidelines on article basics, a style guide and writing tips.
Trustees approved the development of a personnel policy manual, added inexpensive short-term disability coverage for Message employees and gave the go ahead to look at the feasibility of establishing an endowment to train freelancer writers in honor of long-time writer Mark Hunter, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack April 24.