Welcome to the latest chapter in the 70-year history of Report from the Capital.
Last year, we began focusing on how we can better serve our audiences and reach new people, including the next generation. Two action items emerged regarding Report: updating the design and changing its production schedule, which will allow us to create more online and multimedia content as well as respond more immediately to events impacting religious liberty.
These goals cannot be achieved overnight, but you’ve probably noticed small steps in that direction through videos, podcasts and statements released through social media and our blog. While this magazine is not the only source of information from the BJC, it remains our flagship publication.
The changes may look dramatic, but they are really an extension of and emphasis on what we have been doing across the board: modernizing how we deliver our quality content, and doing so as effectively as possible.
In addition to the new design of these pages, there will be a distinct cover photo on each edition. It will arrive in your mailbox six times a year instead of 10, but with more pages than previous editions. Brent Walker and Holly Hollman will continue to write their columns, but you can expect at least one more column from a staff member or other supporter of religious liberty. Additionally, as we have increased our educational programs over the years, we will bring more of that work to you through these pages.
There is no bigger fan of Report than yours truly. I have a copy of every edition in my office, dating back to our first one in 1946, and I use them often for reference and inspiration.
The earliest editions provided a service geared toward Baptist leaders and editors, sharing reports from Washington and news gathered from secular and religious outlets across the country. Today we take for granted how a click of the mouse or a flick of our finger can bring us articles from all perspectives and areas, but Report filled a news void when few other options existed.
The publication began a “new era” in 1962 as it transformed from a publication of pages that looked as if they came directly from a typewriter into a “printed bulletin” with a layout. It was shifting to meet the need “for a more popularized piece that can achieve wide circulation in Baptist churches.”
In 1965, Report modified its look to use a cover photo and pushed to “give the reader the latest possible information about events that affect the Baptist movement,” including more in-depth articles.
An expanded Report launched in January 1980, which began the tradition of labeling the executive director’s column as “Reflections.” In 1994, the magazine changed its schedule to arrive more frequently in homes, which worked to strengthen ties to friends and supporters.
As we began a new millennium, methods of gathering news and staying connected shifted with the rise of the internet and 24-hour cable news. By the time Report reached homes, any news in its pages was already available through an avalanche of options. In 2003, the BJC made what I consider one of the major changes to Report: we removed the subscription cost. While it always had been free to Baptist leaders, others had to pay a small fee. From that point forward, the magazine became free to everyone, making it more widely available and easier to share. It became a full-color magazine, published 10 times a year and offering more context and analysis to provide needed insight in a faster-paced world.
Our 2016 format points us even more in that direction. Gone are the days where you depend on us to gather breaking news, but we are here to provide you with trustworthy and reliable analysis. And, producing fewer editions allows us to focus more on responding to issues in real time through the internet and social media. You don’t have to watch your mailbox to stay connected – sign up for our emails, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and visit our website to get updates from us at any time.
I know what this publication can do – it influenced my life before I worked at the BJC. In the mid-2000s, I struggled with articulating my love for the Ten Commandments and my concern about a government-funded Decalogue monument in my home state of Alabama. Conversations were not always fruitful. A friend faxed (yes, faxed) me a copy of a column written by Holly Hollman about that exact issue, which offered tips for discussion. I posted it in my home, and her analysis helped me see the full situation and engage in thoughtful dialogue on the issue with people from a variety of viewpoints.
This magazine is meant to equip you for conversations and situations that arise in the church-state realm. I hope you find pages share-worthy, either on your refrigerator on through your social media channels. Each article is available individually on our website, and we now provide the entire magazine in a format that is easier to read on your tablet. And, it continues to be free, thanks to our generous donors. If you would be willing to help offset the cost, you can make a donation at BJConline.org/donate.
We want Report from the Capital to be informative, useful and something you would share, and I want to know if we are meeting those goals. Email me or call me at the BJC with your feedback. As the staff said in the 1962 redesign, we aim to provide a “source of reliable and authentic information and interpretation,” now and for years to come.