Religious Journalism in 1971
Temple Terrace, Florida
The history, of the church of Christ in America is closely linked to publications in which brethren have expressed thought, preached their convictions, waged battles, explored questions, reported the news, and left a fluent record of their actions and attitudes.
Hundreds of magazines and papers have come and gone. A few have had tremendous influence in shaping thought. In the early days of the Restoration Movement in this country, A. Campbell's papers, the Christian Baptist and the Millennial Harbinger, along with B. W. Stone's Christian Messenger, were unusually potent. In the next generation of journalism, Ben Franklin's American Christian Review, Isaac Errett's Christian Standard, and David Lipscomb's Gospel Advocate wielded great power. Moses Lard's Quarterly, though of short duration, made its mark.
Most religious publications have experienced financial problems. The few that are hoary with age have survived hard times, and most of the ones which have died were killed by the same plague-lack of money.
Only God knows how many periodicals were commenced to propagate someone's it peculiar views. When a faction arises, a paper will soon be started to voice the heresy. Other papers may be started to counter the influence of that one. As long as brethren take up with false doctrines and promote parties, this trend will continue.
Some brethren are "down" on all religious papers because many of them are not worth the price of the ink with which they are printed. Such a reaction is not justifiable. Shall we downgrade all elders because some are not worthy to be called elders? Shall we refuse to hear anyone preach because some preachers are plain sorry? Shall we refuse to be associated with a local church because many congregations are digressive? Not all religious journals are bad. Like people, they have their faults. The best of papers cannot offer perfection in every issue. The men who write, edit, and publish the papers make them what they are. The folks who have "soured" on gospel papers are doing themselves a disservice by not reading at least some of the excellent material that is being offered.
Every year new periodicals make their appearance and others reach their demise. I think it will be of interest to the readers of this magazine to see a list of some of the papers circulated among members of churches of Christ during the past year, and to know, how widely (or narrowly) they were distributed.
Circulation figures were formerly a deep, dark secret carefully guarded by the publishers. Postal laws governing second class publications have changed that. Brethren who take it for granted that Goodpasture's Gospel Advocate must have at least 100,000 subscribers are in for a surprise. It is a big and powerful paper, to be sure, but not really as powerful as some suppose.
A few years ago (1965) the Christian Chronicle was printing 37,883 copies each week. In 1971 it became a bi-weekly, printing 6,029 copies. Its circulation has dropped to one-sixth the 1965 level and it appears only half as often. We wonder if this represents a reaction to its more liberal stance?
Searching the Scriptures enjoyed the largest circulation of the papers published by conservative brethren during 1971. The combined circulation of Searching the Scriptures, Truth Magazine, Gospel Guardian, and the Preceptor was 16,787. It is obvious that many of us are much too "conservative" when it comes to spending money on subscriptions for good papers! That figure should be at least 50,000.
The circulation figures reported are the total number of copies printed on the average for a twelve-month period as published in the different papers in accordance with postal laws and regulations. Most of the figures were compiled and submitted in Oct. of 1971.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 19, pp. 5-6