In 1919, a bit more than a century ago, the Western Recorder was purchased by our state convention and thus officially became part of the KBC family as one of its agencies. Baptist historians actually trace the roots of the Western Recorder back to 1825, making the Recorder the second oldest Baptist newspaper/publication in the Southern Baptist Convention.
I know I am an older Kentucky Baptist. My body reminds me of that on a daily basis. However, it still pains me to realize that next month will be the last print edition of our monthly Recorder. I’m a bit of a relic when it comes to journalism.
I majored in journalism at Murray State in the 1960s. My journalism professor was Dr. L.J. Hortin, a man who had more influence on me than any instructor before or since. Dr. Hortin was a legend in journalism and a man of great integrity.
He was followed by Dr. Bob McGauhey. Both those men nurtured me and challenged me to be truthful in my reporting. I was a journalism major because I believed strongly that the power of print media to provide in- depth reporting was vital to a thriving democracy (and a college campus). I still feel the same way today, though many of my readers might debate this point.
So it is with this history and affection for print journalism that I am saddened by the announcement that next month will be the last monthly edition of our Recorder. That does NOT mean I disagree with the decision to go all digital. Such a move was inevitable. You and I are living in “digital days.” The younger generations tend not to read or subscribe to anything that tends to rub off on your hands! And I know that the decision of our KBC leadership and Recorder staff to cease publication came with much prayer and deliberation. That belief still doesn’t end my sadness, although I am heartened to know its legacy will continue through a once-a-year publication for the Annual Meeting.
After coming to Christ at the age of 13 and then running from Christ for a couple of decades, I came back to Kentucky when I was 40 to begin seminary. So for these last 30 years, I’ve been deeply immersed in Kentucky Baptist life — as a pastor and as the first president and CEO of Crossings. I came to greatly value the Recorder as a means of keeping Kentucky Baptists informed about happenings across our state and around the world.
Recorder editors during my time have been Marv Knox, Mark Wingfield, Trennis Henderson, Todd Deaton and lastly Brandon Porter, with Chip Hutcheson as interim managing editor. I had great regard for each of these men, their integrity and their commitment to the pursuit of truth in their reporting. Marv, Mark and Trennis became good friends as I served on the Recorder board of trustees. I knew Todd well. He tried a few years ago to talk me into joining the Recorder team in a last-ditch effort to stave off the eventual demise of print. I didn’t take him up on his offer because I didn’t think it was possible to save the print Recorder in an increasingly digital world.
In the time I have been at Crossings, we have sought to keep Kentucky Baptists informed about all God is doing through our camp ministry. I’ve written most of our monthly columns, realizing that most of the readership was aging up and out! I have grown to have a great appreciation for Chip Hutches- on, whose journalism and newspaper experience goes back far beyond his serving as interim Recorder managing editor. Chip and I have commiserated the death of print media more times than I can count.
Crossings will continue to migrate from print to Kentucky Today and social media in communication to our partner churches and individuals. We’ll continue to figure out ways to give God the glory for the blessings He brings to Crossings. As I write this column, it’s early January and we still aren’t sure what camp will look like in summer of 2021. But we are truly excited about what God will do this summer at Cedarmore and Jonathan Creek.
I want to express sincere thank yous to Chip, Brandon and the Recorder team for its tireless efforts to spread the word of God’s work in and among Kentucky Baptists. God’s been glorified! And I know He’ll continue to be — in spite of the pandemic that continues to alter our lives.
Rusty Ellison is vice president of develop- ment for Crossings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.