Leading With Our Chin: With Lessons Learned From Past and Present, an Opportunity to Partner in the Future

Posted: Dec 08, 2012 10:35 AM
Leading With Our Chin: With Lessons Learned From Past and Present, an Opportunity to Partner in the Future

Moody Radio producer Julie Roys wrote recently, “I’m incredibly grateful for WORLD magazine. It plays a vital watchdog role in the evangelical world. If it weren’t for WORLD, the National Association of Evangelicals would probably still be taking money from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy; no one would know that Sojourners took money from George Soros; and D’Souza would still be president of King’s.”

You might be wondering why I would lead this column with items that made WORLD (and me) painfully unpopular in some circles. Some folks wrote: “Cancel my subscription”—and a few of them weren’t even subscribers!

It would make more sense to lead with this reminder to the many pregnancy resource directors and counselors who read WORLD: “By Dec. 31, please email Rob Patete (rpatete@worldmag.com) photos of babies born to moms helped by your center. We want to publish them in our annual Roe v. Wade issue, and we’ll need a signed release (worldmag.com/media/docs/PhotoRelease.pdf) from the baby’s parent or guardian.”

Everyone loves babies, right? And we love accentuating the positive with a contest like that, or with our annual Hope Award for Effective Compassion, our Daniel of the Year and Book of the Year awards, or our stories about marriages that have lasted for at least 35 years.

But the reason we also include occasional investigative stories is that we have a calling: See “Back to the journalist’s lane” in the Dec. 15 issue for a summary of what we learned to do from 1992 to 2007. And we’ve learned more from those three recent stories for which Julie Roys is grateful.

None was a cover story. None was a huge investigative project. Whistleblowers who weren’t on our staff brought problems to the attention of our seasoned editorial team. We analyzed what we learned, because when an offense is personal (“when your brother sins against you”), we suggest a Matthew 18 process. When it is public, though, we do excruciating checking, then lay out the facts without using exclamation marks.

These three were all public. The organization representing American evangelicals was indeed taking money directly from a leading enabler of sex outside of marriage, and indirectly from a pro-abortion foundation. The most prominent religious left organization was indeed on a radical atheist’s payroll. The high-profile president of a Christian college was indeed married to one woman and traveling—to give speeches about Christian values—with another he introduced as his fiancée.

In each case, the subject of our story responded with outrage. For example, Jim Wallis said I was a liar, until his staff told him, Ah, Jim, we did take money from Soros. In each case, documentable events vindicated us: The NAE announced it was saying no to a second grant from those promoting contraception for the unmarried. Jim Wallis manfully apologized. The King’s College board accepted its president’s resignation. No one has ever sued WORLD for libel: It could happen, but we’ve been careful to get the facts right.

In each case we had a remarkable impact, as hundreds of publications and websites picked up what we had reported. That’s providential technology at work at a time when many news organizations prefer orating to original reporting. So here’s a thought: If we can have that big an impact while using the little finger of one hand as we cover swirling political, economic, and cultural news, what could we do with additional resources?

What if we employed the hands of an experienced investigative journalist and two hard-charging young reporters in a special unit devoted to exposing corruption in government and elsewhere? We cannot ignore stories about evangelical problems that fall into our lap, but we’d much rather focus our attention outward—and there’s lots to see.

Now that we’re unpopular in some evangelical circles, will you help to make us appropriately unpopular in Washington? We’re providing a few other giving opportunities as well: You could focus on training more Christian journalists, advancing WORLD Radio, or reaching more young people. Please use the envelope in the printed publication, or visit our secure online donation page to learn about your options.

With your gift, you might even want to suggest some investigative assignment you think we should pursue!