How many Christian journalists are there? A new organization helps Christians who work in mainstream journalism find colleagues, and support.
by Gordon Govier
Journalists have dropped almost as low as lawyers in the public esteem, maybe lower. A friend who is intrigued by my work to organize Christian journalists compares it to an organization of Christian used car dealers; in other words highly suspect and maybe even an oxymoron.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas is one of the few journalists who has developed a national reputation as a Christian. He told me once that as he traveled to speaking appearances around the country he frequently would be approached by a local journalist who would conspirationally confess that he (or she) and Thomas were the only Christians in the field he (or she) was aware of.
I'm often asked just how many Christian journalists are there? A lot more than many people suspect, but only God knows for sure. There really hasn't been a way to find out. It would seem though that in this information age that now surrounds us, journalism would be a very strategic occupation for a committed Christian.
And now there's an international fellowship of journalists, called Gegrapha, which is trying to encourage American journalists to link up with each other and with Christian journalists in other countries. Former TIME magazine diplomatic correspondent David Aikman has taken the initiative to establish Gegrapha, utilizing contacts established during numerous foreign postings as well as his leadership in a monthly journalists' fellowship that meets in Washington, D.C.
Gegrapha has had one official meeting so for, in August of 1999 in Chichester England. But that event was the culmination of a number of Christian journalist conferences that David and his colleagues have sponsored over the past decade. I didn't think too much about what it meant to be a Christian and a journalist during my early years as a news reporter at a succession of Top 40 radio stations. But when a job offer gave me a chance to move back to my favorite city, Madison, Wisconsin, I entered the world of Christian broadcasting and soon discovered my own mission field.
I certainly wasn't the first news reporter in Christian broadcasting, maybe just the first to say that what passed for news in most of Christian broadcasting was unacceptable. So I went out on a limb and began to publish a newsletter called SCRIBE, which tried to do something about it. Along the way, some fellow journalists encouraged me to expand the focus of SCRIBE, to make it a resource for Christian journalists working in the secular media. John DeDakis, a former CBN White House correspondent who is now at CNN, was one of the most persistent.
John was the one who put me onto David Aikman, and then a conference for Christian journalists in Washington in 1992 brought us together. It was billed as The First National Conference for Christian Journalists. Sixty men and women from across the country spent a day enjoying a sweet new dimension of fellowship and listening to inspirational words from Terry Anderson and others.
In the wake of that special time together, I decided that instead of expanding SCRIBE I would spin off a different newsletter. John had introduced me to another friend, Joe Murchison, editor of the Laurel Leader weekly newspaper in Laurel, Md. David connected me with Hiawatha Bray, who was then a business reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Both shared a desire to serve their fellow Christian journalists.
We chose the name QV, short for Quaesitus Veritatis, a Latin phrase meaning "the quest for truth." One of our first subscribers pointed out that q.v. also denotes the Latin phrase quod vide used by writers. It means "which see" or "check the source."
The first issue came out early in 1994 and contained a note on ABC's hiring of Peggy Wehmeyer as network TV's first religion correspondent. QV, in my mind, was something constructive that could be done until an organization for Christian journalists could be formed. The time came in February 1997, when I bumped into David Aikman at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Washington, D.C.
David had retired from TIME and started working at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. Part of his new duties included developing an organization for Christian journalists and he wanted QV to be a part of it.
Because many journalists work in sensitive positions that might not be conducive to having their faith known, David decided to work towards a loosely knit fellowship that revolved around local fellowships, a website and semi-regular conferences.
We began looking for a distinctive name that could be easily found by an Internet search engine. David came up with the name Gegrapha, which means, "I have written" in Greek. (He pronounces it GAY-gra-fa). It's a good name or an organization of journalists but it comes from an unusual place. When the Jewish leaders complained to Pontius Pilate about the words he had placed on Jesus' crucifixion cross, he responded, "what I have written I have written (John 19:22), or "ho gegrapha, gegrapha" in New Testament Greek.
Pontius Pilate may have more applicability as a source of inspiration for a group of Christian journalists than one would think. Like a journalist, he posed the question, "What is truth?" to Jesus himself (John 18:38). He was fascinated by the story of Jesus. In the end, he got to write the headline to that story, perhaps the first headline of history. And he got it right, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Gegrapha has three goals:
- To build a global fellowship among Christians in journalism, supporting those already in it and encouraging others who may feel called to it.
- To model Christian standards of excellence and personal ethics within the profession of journalism.
- To be channels of God's grace and truth through the profession of journalism.
The website is up: www.gegrapha.com. Another conference is being planned for Washington D.C. next August. Small groups of Christian journalists are starting to meet together in a number of cities. And more and more Christian journalists are finding out they're not alone. Work is underway on a book that will tell the stories of some Christian journalists and how their faith has impacted their work. I've been attending some journalism conferences and bumping into other Christian journalists in such unusual ways that they could only be described as divine appointments. This December I'll be attending InterVarsity's Urbana student missions convention to talk with college students about journalism as a calling.
Gegrapha is just getting started.
Gordon Govier is news director at WNWC AM & FM in Madison, Wisconsin. He is on the Gegrapha board and is also president of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He can be reached by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org .