Is it time to bid farewell to our denomination’s flagship publication, Holiness Today?
By Rev. Dr. Robert (Bob) Hunter
In recent years, the publication has not proven it can keep up with the high standards of print media in the 21st Century. I received my copy of HT in the mail a few days ago, and I noted several design and layout issues.
An unflattering picture of our newly elected General Superintendent appeared on the rear cover. Inconsistent fonts, poor color schemes, uninspiring content, as well as Holiness Today cover print running off the page filled the issue. This is not acceptable. It may be time to pull the plug. Apparently, we do not have the budget, expertise, and editorial prowess to make this publication relevant to its readers, many of whom are accustomed to higher publishing standards.
For Holiness Today, it sometimes feels like “Holiness Yesterday” would be a more appropriate title. We should not inflict this kind of pain on our beloved denomination. I have nothing to gain politically by writing this article. I do not, nor have I ever, worked for the GMC, and I do not presently have relationships with HT personnel. I do receive the publication in the mail, and it pains me to say it, but it’s time to shift our efforts to digital forms of media and truly live up to the idea of making Holiness relevant for today.
Perhaps there are other ways to advance our message. A few weeks ago, I experimented with short form media and had a small amount of success. People access digital media on their phones, and we would likely expand our audience by venturing into this format. Recently, a General Superintendent spoke during a camp meeting gathering. I thought his points were powerful and insightful. I asked permission to edit a small portion and publish it in a couple of Nazarene social media forums. By day’s end, the clip gained a wonderful reception among viewers with shares, likes, and comments. The message of holiness for today must advance beyond the scope of print and there is a plethora of existing digital formats that should be considered as a replacement.
Moreover, there are concerns about the restrictive base of writers and the limited nature of subject matters. Under previous editors, a deliberate effort was made to expand the writing base beyond Nazarenes in hopes of increasing readership. Nazarenes benefit from the perspective of other like-minded Wesleyan/holiness thinkers and writers, young and old alike. I am not sure what criteria is presently in use to select writers, but venturing beyond our own tribe for perspective can enrich our readership and broaden our understanding. As always, attention must be paid to cultural diversity.
I’m not saying this hasn’t been the case, but diverse authorship and the international nature of our church are key factors.
Can print media still be relevant? Yes, but the bar is set a bit higher. If our denomination is to produce print, it should be done well and with an eye toward excellence. My proposal is this: Fund the publication adequately, hire the necessary editorial expertise, and raise the print standard accordingly. If those benchmarks cannot be met, then maybe we should just pull the plug.
A few years ago, I received an edition of Holiness Today that was invigorating, cohesive, and well written. It was the Reformation issue Sept/Oct 2017. I don’t know who conceived the idea for this edition, but it was thoughtful and challenging. Yes, print can be done well, but let’s consider other formats including blogs, podcasts, short and long form video, etc. If the goal is to retain a print publication purely for the sake of tradition and the dwindling number of non-digital readers, then we may be stuck with it. But if the idea of presenting holiness for today’s church is to be advanced, then we may want to pivot away from forms of media that are not in demand, especially when we do not have the resources to do them well. Don’t get me wrong, digital media can be expensive at times, and if done poorly, it can be a hindrance, but we’ll have to tackle that one another time.
What are your thoughts?
ETA: I am fully aware of the HT podcast and I celebrate what could be a wonderful step in the right direction.