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Faithful journalism in a pandemic

With the help of technology, The Christian Chronicle fulfills its mission at a difficult time.

For some reason, journalists like myself have a reputation for procrastination.

I’m not sure exactly why that is.

I contemplate that question as I hurriedly type this column at 6:30 a.m. the day before The Christian Chronicle goes to press.

Related: Read all our top stories on faith and COVID-19

For those not familiar with newspaper terminology, press day is our monthly deadline to finish all our writing, editing and design and send our finished pages to the printer.

In the old days (and I’m old enough to remember them), that work involved a lot of chemicals, hot wax and X-Acto knives. We cut up typeset story copy and headlines and pasted the slick strips on pages. I spent most of my college years at Oklahoma Christian University with scraps from that process stuck to the bottom of my shoes.

These days, we do all our work via computer and push a button to send our completed set of PDFs to the printing company when we’re finished.

Although I miss going places and interviewing people face to face, I thank God for the blessing of technology that allows us to keep fulfilling the Chronicle’s mission.

Before the pandemic, Erik Tryggestad, the Chronicle’s president and CEO, and I often traveled on assignment during the month. Since March, though, we and the rest of our staff have done most of our reporting via email, telephone and video teleconferencing.

Although I miss going places and interviewing people face to face, I thank God for the blessing of technology that allows us to keep fulfilling the Chronicle’s mission.

Some press cycles are more stressful than others, although we — somehow — have managed to make deadline every single month during my 15 years with the Chronicle.

In my role, I do a mix of reporting and writing my own stories and assigning and editing other people’s stories. I’m particularly proud of some of the excellent work of our editors and correspondents in the January print edition.

Laura Akins

Laura Akins

Laura Akins, who studied journalism at Abilene Christian University in Texas, joined our staff this past March as reviews editor and has excelled in that role. Starting with this issue, we have changed her title to features editor. She’ll keep writing a reviews-type column most months while pursuing more trend stories and profiles.

Laura’s interview this month with Lauren Akins (no relation, but that’s a fun part of the story) is exceptional. The fact that the wife of country superstar Thomas Rhett agreed to a 20-minute interview with Laura and ended up talking to her for about 75 minutes says a lot about both of these Christian women who share a last name.

Digital news editor Chellie Ison is the veteran journalist who manages the Chronicle’s strong presence on the internet and social media. Chellie, a former reporter, anchor and producer for Oklahoma City’s NBC affiliate, has served in that role since 2016.

Her narrative on Oklahoma minister Mitch Wilburn’s near-death experience with COVID-19 is a must-read. It’s filled with so many compelling details — a testament both to Chellie’s writing ability and the amazing faith of Wilburn and his wife, Shannon.

Another important member of our team is Cheryl Mann Bacon, who served for 20 years as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at ACU. In retirement, she has become one of our most prolific correspondents (and I don’t say that just because she has a little trouble fitting her stories into our requested word counts).

This month, Cheryl offers a heartwarming portrait of Markus Paul, a faithful Christian who served as the Dallas Cowboys’ strength and conditioning coach. Members of Churches of Christ in several NFL cities have fond memories of the 54-year-old Paul, who died Nov. 25.

Cheryl Mann Bacon

Cheryl Mann Bacon

Also in this issue: Cheryl’s superb profile of Terry and Marty Groves, parents of seven and members of the Monterey Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas. Cheryl highlights the Groveses’ ministry to help feed hungry schoolchildren during the pandemic.

Not to give away either of our ages, but Terry was my youth minister at the old Midtown Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, in the mid-1980s.

Our correspondent Hamil R. Harris, a Maryland preacher and longtime journalist who spent 20-plus years with the Washington Post, is another valued member of the Chronicle’s news team.

Hamil does not have a byline in this issue, but look for a story from him in our next edition. Every time I talk to Hamil, he makes sure to pray for me and the Chronicle before we end the call. We appreciate his prayers, and yours, so much.

A final note: We welcome opportunities to help train the next generation of journalists. We were pleased last month to publish a story by Natalie Corbelli, a sophomore majoring in photography and digital media writing at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., on her university’s experience with COVID-19.

We plan to hire a paid news intern next summer. The right candidate will be a university student majoring in journalism and a member of a Church of Christ. Please email me for details.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Want to help us report more real news that honors God? Donate here.

January 2021 print edition front page

Filed under: church and covid Coronavirus COVID-19 Inside Story journalism newspapers technology The Christian Chronicle Top Stories

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