Is Baptist Press (BP), the newswire service of the Southern Baptist Convention hopelessly biased? Some apparently think it is. In a stinging editorial composed by Baptist editors James Smith (Florida), Marty King (Illinois), and Gary Ledbetter (Texas) and published in the Florida Baptist Witness on June 12 of this year (just prior to the SBC), the trio left no doubt in the readers’ mind.
“over just a three-day period, BP ran four opinion pieces by [Morris] Chapman totaling more than 18,000 words opposing various aspects of the GCRTF report and offering his own alternative set of recommendations.”
Fully acknowledging Dr. Chapman being “entitled to his views,” nevertheless, they argued Chapman “should not be allowed to use a news service that is supposed to serve all Southern Baptists as a personal megaphone.” Consequently, the alleged BP bias left the three editors so concerned, they publicized a motion that would be offered at the soon-to-be Orlando SBC:
That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention study establishing Baptist Press as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, with a board of directors elected by the Southern Baptist Convention and supported with currently allocated funds for Baptist Press within the Executive Committee budget.
Perhaps just as noteworthy, not only did the three editors—James Smith, Marty King, and Gary Ledbetter—jointly sign their names to the editorial, they also identified their elected roles with the Association of State Baptist Papers (ASBP), giving the added but false impression their editorial expressed the opinion of ASBP. As a result, an official apology was published online and sent to the ASBP.
The motion made it to the floor of the Executive Committee (EC) during meetings Sept. 20-21 in Nashville. It was soundly defeated after an extended discussion concerning various obstacles which the EC deemed prohibitive to the motion’s execution. What was even more clearly decisive than the official vote to keep BP under the watch-guard of 83 trustees, was the outright rejection of the Smith-King-Ledbetter contention that BP was irredeemably biased, especially in its handling of the GCRTF agenda.
A letter written by Dr. Bob Simpson, editor of BaptistLife (state paper of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware), and the immediate past president of the Association of State Baptist Papers was considered. In his letter, Simpson unequivocally stated “I would like to go on record as totally disagreeing with any suggestion of bias on the part of Will Hall and his staff in their coverage of the GCRTF,” offering his personal willingness to be at the September Executive Committee meeting to “express my support of Will and ask that the study of the independence of BP as a separate entity not be predicated upon the wrongful suggestion of any bias on the part of Will specifically or Baptist Press generally.”
In addition, eleven editor signatories were cited as in full agreement with Simpson’s concern that BP had been falsely accused of excessive bias. Included were Kelly Boggs (La.), Todd Deaton (Ky.), Gerald Harris (Ga.), Don Hinkle (Mo.), Don Kirkland (S.C.), John Loudat (N.M.), Richard Nations (Iowa), Bob Terry (Ala.), Lonnie Wilkey (Tenn.), David Williams (Minn.-Wis.), and Greg Wrigley (W.Va.), with both Boggs and Hinkle writing separate but similar letters to EC chairman, Roger Spradlin.
With that, I am…