"Oprah's Gospel," an in-depth report about the spiritual beliefs of popular entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey, appeared in the May 2008 edition of 23 Christian newspapers as part of an unprecedented joint project. The participating newspapers represent a combined distribution of 500,000 copies in 20 states and British Columbia.
The project involved 13 separate newspaper groups, all members of the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, an affinity group within the Evangelical Press Association. In all, FCN represents about 40 regional Christian newspapers in the United States and Canada.
FCN members participate in frequent online interaction sharing technical, business and philosophical ideas. The group also participates in national advertising buys. Each spring, FCN presents an award for Christian Newspaper of the Year and various other writing awards.The joint reporting venture was the brainchild of Lamar Keener, publisher of five Christian Examiner regional papers and the Minnesota Christian Chronicle. Keener, who also serves as president of the EPA, said the article was not a hit piece, but one that carefully shows Oprah's stance on spirituality, while also acknowledging her significant positive contributions within the entertainment industry and generosity towards many worthy causes."I was drawn to the subject of what Oprah believes about faith and spirituality by a YouTube video being highly circulated on the Internet," Keener said. "Personally, not being a viewer of any daytime television, I was unaware of both the magnitude of Oprah's audience and influence as well as the full nature of her message that is decidedly "New Age" and very much in conflict with biblical Christianity. It seemed like a story too big for us to do alone, so I enlisted a dozen other Christian newspaper publishers to join us in hiring a reporter for the project."
The writer for the project, Steve Rabey, is an EPA member and nationally recognized Christian journalist based in Colorado Springs. In his report Rabey explores Oprah's belief that many paths lead to God. Among those who have influenced her spiritual beliefs is best-selling author Ekhart Tolle. According to the article Tolle mixes philosophies from Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, and uses such terms as "higher self" and "new consciousness."In the article, Rabey uncovers a quote from Oprah telling fans to persist with the book because "we need to change the world."The shared reporting concept proved to be an invaluable approach for the publishers."Regional Christian newspapers tend to be understaffed and underfunded and simply do not have the time or the financial resources to do much in-depth reporting," Keener said. "As regional publications, most of our efforts are on local stories rather than national stories. By pooling our resources we were able to hire an award-winning, well-respected Christian journalist for this important project."
The article attracted a great deal of national media attention, including a Religion News Service article picked up by USA Today. The FCN article also led to a report on Fox News, and two followup segments featuring EPA president Lamar Keener.
A full version of the article, "Oprah's Gospel: Entertainment mogul preaches 'many paths' to God," may be found on the Christian Examiner Web site, or some of the other participating publication Web sites.