The Third Post: Fresh Christian journalism or just a new platform?

Skye Jethani, managing editor of Leadership Journal, has been announcing a new online portal, The Third Post (T3P), which will include content to advance the formation of a Christian worldview among the next generation, free from polarizing political rhetoric, and focused on international reconciliation and service.

On the Q Ideas blog, Jethani writes:

The Third Post is a rallying point where thoughtful Christians receive information about their world and the assistance they need to create and engage in the society at large. Avoiding the polarizing rhetoric of “Right versus Left” and “conservative versus progressive,” The Third Post offers a new alternative for generations of Christians that want to take the whole gospel to the whole world. And as technology continues to shift the nature of media and journalism, T3P promises to be a pioneer bringing the Christian voice into the world of digital news and media.

Jethani says more at The Third Post site:

Along with aggregating news, The Third Post will provide resources from the most trusted Christian content producers. Bible studies related to current events, e-book to help Christians learn more about the things that matter most, and guides for churches and ministries that want to engage more deeply in locally and globally.

Through partner ministries, T3P readers will be able to donate directly to projects around the world that are engaged in reconciling all things to God through Christ. And they will be able to stay up to date on the latest news impacting the regions of the church or focus of ministry they are called to. In other words The Third Post will do more than help shape a Christian worldview, it will help a generation of activists actually engage the world they seek to impact.

And through blog posts from a stable of global thought-leaders, we will be able to engage in dialogue with others Christians to sharpen our own understanding of the world. In this way, The Third Post will be a global rallying point for different streams of the Church to discuss, debate, and imagine the world being reborn through the reconciling work of Christ.

This is soaring language that makes me want to be enthusiastic about T3P. But I’ll have to admit that I just don’t understand what it is the blog will present. I look forward to more details from Skye.

The greatest challenge is news gathering and news reporting, which take vast resources and personnel, particularly on a global scale. Who will be T3P’s news sources and reporters, and will they have the credentials and character to truly present a third way?

Will T3P be commenting on the news of the day, or only on the news at the intersection of church and culture? Will the blog limit itself to news and commentary on the work of the church around the world—particularly when it is demonstrating reconciliation?

In his online booklet Telling the Truth, World magazine’s Marvin Olasky discusses bigger issues for potential Christian journalists:

The rarity of good Christian news publications represents both a crisis of entrepreneurship and a faltering of applied faith. Many aspiring Christian journalists know the Bible but do not know how to apply biblical wisdom to problems of writing and editing. Those who hope to build God’s kingdom through journalism need more than good intentions and more than a secular journalism-school education: They need to see how to hold every thought, and every part of their editing and reporting process, captive to Christ.

Judging from their publications, many editors do not know how to develop stories that pile up specific detail gained through journalistic pavement pounding. They fill their pages with warmed-over sermons rather than realistic stories of successful independent schools or corrupted churches and thereby miss an opportunity to teach boldness. They do not go after stories that could expose the aggressiveness of liberal culture and thereby miss an opportunity to alert and organize people as the committees of correspondence did just before the American Revolution. Those publications that do speak up often communicate in a tone so screeching as to be useless in coalition-building.

Sadly, vision without apprenticeship is common. Over the past eight years I have received numerous telephone calls from Christians who “have a vision” for publishing a national newspaper (or some such large project) and are looking for advice. I am obnoxious enough to ask questions about journalistic training: Rarely have those with good intentions paid their dues as reporters or copy editors. I ask about management expertise: Rarely have those with that particular vision put together or even heard of a publication business plan. I am usually forced to suggest to my eager callers that they take two aspirin–one labeled journalistic experience, one labeled business knowledge–and call me in the morning (a morning about five years hence).

That bedside manner does not make me popular, since most callers typically look not for cautionary words but for approval of their plans. The good news is that most of those who have the vision but are inadequately prepared do not have money to throw away on a prematurely begun endeavor. The bad news is that establishing a thriving Christian magazine or newspaper is hard under the best of circumstances. If editors and writers do not have a solid understanding of the principles of biblical journalism and their practical applications, the likelihood of success quickly falls to slim or none. In journalism as in life, God graces us with miracles–but to expect a miracle, when we are not using our talents intelligently, is presumption.

I wish for the best for T3P and trust the team planning this new product will avoid these pitfalls.

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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