When Jesus said to His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations," He intended that they should teach by every means at their command,—by voice and by pen, on the platform and over the radio, in the magazines and in the newspapers,—as opportunity affords. Except for the radio, there is no greater avenue than the public press for reaching the minds and hearts of the multitudes in these last days of probationary time.
We need to sense more than we do the tremendous possibilities of the public press. There are in the United States alone 1,143 daily newspapers, besides weeklies and semiweeklies. The New York Times has a Sunday circulation of 727,000 and a daily circulation of 450,000. The circulation of the New York Journal is 632,000, while the Sunday circulation of the New York News is 1,741,000.
The combined circulation of all the newspapers in the country reaches in the main the entire population of the United States. The public press thus constitutes a vast forum for the presentation of views, either good or bad. And while this great molder of public opinion is open to us, we should make far greater use of it than we are doing. We should write much more for the newspapers than we do, and we should write much better articles. This is both our privilege and our duty.
Think for a moment of how much labor and time and money must be expended in order to secure an audience of from 500 to 800 to listen to the message from the desk. We do not consider that labor, money, or time ill spent. And one prepares his sermon for that audience, whether few or many, with utmost care. But we are privileged to speak to a hundred or even a thousand times that number, if we will but make our message short and right to the point, and if we will capitalize those happenings which are in the public mind at the particular time of writing.
Why should not the news of the day furnish a text from which to preach the message through the press? Jesus often preached in parables. He always met the people on their own ground. He understood their needs, and He spoke their language. This we, too, should do. And we should do it with both voice and pen.
The weekly church notices present an opportunity. Many newspapers still publish them free; some make a small charge. But in either event they are well worthwhile. True, they occupy only a few lines; but they should appear regularly every week. They should be carefully prepared, and handed to the city editor in ample time for the church page of the Sunday issue. Most newspapers require the church notices to be in hand not later than Friday noon. The exact requirements of each paper can be learned by inquiring of the city editor.
In preparing church notices, the style of the paper should be carefully followed. Every comma, semicolon, and period should be in its proper place; the notice should be typewritten, double spaced, on only one side of the paper, with a generous margin at the top, bottom, and sides.
If there is more than one Seventh-day Adventist church in the city, or in the city and surrounding suburbs, the notices should be combined, and all passed in at once. Although this is not absolutely necessary, it will save work for the editor, and will make it possible for the notices to be placed under the one head, "Seventh-day Adventist." This will make a much better showing than when each notice stands by itself.
Perhaps we do not sense as much as we should the importance and value of our denominational name. The Spirit of prophecy tells us that it is like "an arrow from the Lord's quiver," that it will lead to inquiry, and will send conviction to the heart. And so it has been in many cases.
Some newspapers will permit, just under the heading, a line like this: "Note—Services of this denomination are held on Saturday." With such variations as may be necessary to conform to the circumstances and to the style of the particular paper for which you are writing, the notice would then appear somewhat as follows:
(See PDF for list)
If your list shows eight, ten, or twelve churches, so much the better. But the notices are not all. We ought never to neglect our sermon reports for the press. These will almost invariably be appreciated, particularly if they are given to the editor just before or immediately after the sermon is delivered. Extended reports will not always be used, but except where the press is biased, or where the particular subject upon which you are speaking, or your expressions upon it, are taboo, you may usually count upon at least a portion of the report being published.
Then there is the column for the expression of public opinion, known as the "People's Column," "Open Forum," or some similar name. Your letter to the editor will usually find a place there, and will be read by the multitudes. Such letters should be prepared with great care, as should all newspaper copy. All statements of fact should be carefully verified. Copy should be typewritten, double spaced, and on one side of the paper. It is well to keep a carbon copy for your own files.
Six years' experience as a reporter upon a daily newspaper, during which time I often had to edit ministers' copy, lead me to say, Be brief. Tell your story interestingly, without unnecessary words and without circumlocution. Be careful of your spelling and punctuation. Make short paragraphs. When you have finished, quit. Always make the first sentence of your article, and even the first words, say something. Then tell your message. Make it as clear and forceful as you can, even rewriting and shortening it if this seems best. Then with a prayer for God's blessing, take it to the city editor in ample time for his paper. Personal delivery is better than the mails, for it gives you the opportunity of personal contact. And to become acquainted with newspaper men can do the denomination no harm, and may do a great deal of good.*
Washington, D. C.