Louisville—Western Recorder, the official newspaper of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has been published since December 1825, marking 190 years of Baptist newspapers in the Commonwealth.
Western Recorder emerged from several predecessor papers, the first of which was The Baptist Register, which was succeeded in 1830 by The Baptist Chronicle and Georgetown Literary Register. This paper succumbed to hard times in 1832 and was followed in 1834 by The Baptist Banner, published from Shelbyville and, after 1836, from Louisville.
The newspaper merged with The Baptist of Nashville, Tenn., and The Western Pioneer of Rock Spring, Ill. The merger was continued at Louisville under the name The Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer and served as a denominational organ for Baptists in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
In 1851 the name was changed to Western Recorder and has been so called ever since, distinguishing itself as the second oldest Baptist paper in America.
In 1919, the Western Recorder was purchased by the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, paying $20,000 for the paper, its printing equipment, mailing addresses and all other assets. The General Association of Baptists in Kentucky bought three papers, The Baptist World, The Kentucky Mission Monthly and the Western Recorder, merging them under a single name.
A major impetus for acquiring a newspaper was to unite Kentucky Baptists in supporting the 75 Million Campaign, promoting the mission enterprises and ministries of Southern Baptists. The effort would quickly give rise to what would become known as the Cooperative Program, which traces its roots to First Baptist Church of Murray in 1925.
Purpose statements have been made at various times which reflect the continuing philosophy of the convention when the paper was brought into the state Baptist family. Those statements indicate the paper is to further the cause of Christ, to inform Baptists in Kentucky about matters of general interest to the churches and to promote and support the programs and ministries of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. In addition, the Western Recorder provides a forum for the exchange of ideas of interest to all Kentucky Baptists.
Since its purchase in 1919, the paper has been the property of what now is the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and is managed by a Board of Directors composed of 12 persons elected to serve by the state convention. Directors are chosen with regard to their commitment to Baptist principles, knowledge of Baptist programs and ministries, membership in Kentucky Baptist churches and their willingness to serve together with the editor and staff in producing a paper which advances the work of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in missions, education and evangelism.
The paper has had only 10 editors since its purchase by the convention in 1919. Beginning with J. W. Porter, who was serving at the time, past editors include V. I. Masters, J. D. Freeman, R. T. Skinner, C. R. Daley, Jack D. Sanford, Marv Knox, Mark Wingfield and Trennis Henderson (see editorial). Todd Deaton has been editor since 2009. Masters and Daley enjoyed the longest tenures, serving 21 and 27 years, respectively.
The paper is supported by subscriptions from individuals and churches, the sale of advertising space, gifts from friends and from an allocation of Cooperative Program funds from the annual budget of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Continued support of the paper through prayer for those who produce it and subscriptions are essential to its continued existence as an arm of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. (WR)
—Adapted from an article by former WR editor Jack Sanford, published Nov. 10, 1987.