The newspaper public doubtless constitutes one of our greatest potential audiences. It has been observed that this is the only medium which has complete and assured coverage of our urban population. Every single copy of a city newspaper, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, is read on the average by at least five persons.
The Kansas City Star in our area has a Sunday circulation of 328,820. This paper not only covers the 521,636 people in greater Kansas City, but it reaches the entire population of most of the cities within a radius of a hundred miles. One paper for every five people would bring the reading public of this paper to well over a million and a half. What is true of this publication holds for newspapers all over our land. They present to us a marvelous opportunity for reaching the masses of the people. Here is a tremendous advantage awaiting- the heralds of present truth. In "Gospel Workers," the messenger of the Lord says: "I am instructed to point our ministers to the unworked cities and to urge them by every possible means to open the way for the presentation of the truth."—Page 353.
For the preaching of the message, and for the eventual swelling of the "loud cry," we are urged to make use of "every possible means." Is it not now high time that we grasp the opportunity offered us in the newspaper? Aside from occasional advertising, we have hardly begun to harness the potentialities of this type of evangelism. But let us take a glimpse here of the waiting millions who form our possible congregation:
"All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in."--"Acts of the Apostles," p. 109).
Religious editors of newspapers everywhere are on the lookout for unusual data to present to the public through their church page. Some of them now carry such national features as "Religious Oddities," "Origin of Famous Hymns," "National Sunday School Lessons," and the like. As syndicated material, these items are read by numerous people in a large number of newspapers.
In like manner, should not Seventh-day Adventists put their thinking to the stretch in an effort to create a feature calling attention to the truth for this time? Some editor would be glad to accept such features as, "Ten Minutes With Your Bible," "Your Bible Says, ..." "Bible Stories for Bedtime," "Oddities of the Bible," "Bible Questions Answered," or "The Bible Day by Day." None of us have quite arrived in this field, and these are but suggestions. It would be excellent indeed, however, if we could produce a feature of such outstanding merit as would gain the syndicated favor accorded other religious material. This constitutes one of our greatest open doors of opportunity.
In the Central Union we have made a humble beginning in this method, and the results have been most gratifying. For nearly a year and a half now The Call, leading weekly newspaper of the West and Southwest, has granted us the privilege of running a Bible Question Corner on its church page. Upon request of THE MINISTRY, we are recording here something of our experience in this connection. The idea was just a suggestion on our part to the religious editor. It was readily accepted, and the article was immediately given a very prominent place on the church page. Because our manuscript was made up and handed into the office a week ahead of time, it was given the preference over all other religious items.
"Bible Question Corner" Feature
Practically all the fundamentals among Bible doctrines have thus been covered by the question-and-answer method employed. Only one question is answered at a time. When queries are lacking from the public, we present our own. So widely read is our feature that it would be difficult to find a colored person in greater Kansas City or in the several States covered by The Call who is not familiar with the Bible Question Corner.
The Call serves nearly a million colored people in its territory. It has a "blanket" coverage of the more than 6o,000 members of the race in the metropolitan area of Kansas City. With five separate weekly editions, it covers Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and California. One of the six leading weekly newspapers in the United States, it is found almost without exception in libraries, doctors' offices, beauty shops, hotel lobbies, barber shops, USO centers, and Army camps all over the country.
Someone may ask, "Why are there separate newspapers for members of the colored race?" Possibly for the same reason that there are Italian and Jewish publications, the two hundred newspapers for colored people in the United States serve to inform the nearly 14, 000,000 race members constituting their reading public, of happenings among themselves. Incidentally they promote community spirit, advertise local and national merchandise, engender better interracial understanding, and afford an opportunity for "America's tenth man" to express himself.
We have formulated no definite methods of newspaper work, but we have discovered that there are several ways to make an article catch the reader's eye very quickly. Possibly our greatest asset in thus attracting notice has been the cut service of T. K. Martin, of the Review and Herald art department. His pictures are excellently drawn, and they seem in themselves to carry a story which words fail to express. We use one of his cuts permanently in our two-column heading, and a different one each week in connection with the article. The managing editor of The Call has complimented us several times on their attractiveness.
Varying the type is another method that attracts attention. The writer for a feature in a newspaper has the privilege of indicating whether this type shall be blackface, italics, or just the ordinary eight or ten point type. To indicate an important paragraph and make a thought stand out, we sometimes have the printer set it in boldface type, and make the lines a few picas narrower than the regular line.
Our column heading is of our own design, save for the cut used. Spread over two columns, this easily arrests attention because of the bold type and the cut of the finger on the Bible. The Bible Question Corner always appears in the upper left-hand corner of the page, nearest the edge. Those who know newspapers say that this is an exceptional advantage.
The Call management allows us to use their stationery* for all Bible school communications, and our mail comes directly to the newspaper office in Kansas City, Missouri. On the back cover of a souvenir brochure which The Call printed recently for their "open house," they included the Bible Question Corner as one of their outstanding regular features.
In answering Bible questions, we have learned that the simpler the answer, the better. Newspaper readers are also eager for us to get to the point; so we cannot afford to lead them around too far, with preliminary explanations. It is never wise to write disparagingly of another denomination. Better to throw out a question than lose readers because of unwisely giving the information for which the question calls. Many such questions could be answered by private letter, and then, of course, advisedly.
Bible Correspondence School Started
Every possible facility at our disposal must be employed in the finishing of the work.
Along with newspaper and radio efforts to warn men, we must couple systematic teaching and persuasion to win them. Much of this can be done by correspondence. Our sphere of activity and usefulness will thus become greatly enlarged.
About the last of December we began actively to promote a Bible correspondence school in connection with our Bible question column in The Call. This was announced in two-column italics just under the heading. The result was that the enrollment made a jump from 200 to nearly 1,400. We had been reticent before this to venture out too far with our project. Up to this time there had been practically no cost in connection with its promulgation, as the newspaper makes no charge for running the Bible Question Corner. But Bible lessons, stationery, stamps, printing, mimeographing, and the like cost a considerable amount.
It was here that the Kansas Conference came to our aid by bearing almost the full responsibility of getting the Bible school on a solid footing. The Central Union Conference next took cognizance of our plight and contributed a substantial sum toward our operating expense. Just now the several conferences whose field is covered by The Call have voted financial support, contributing monthly sums to keep the Bible school in operation. Responses have come to us from as far west as Seattle, Washington, and as far east as Rye, New York. We have several Bible students in Alabama, Florida, and Texas. Our school is conducted in much the same manner as are our radio correspondence schools.
There are over two hundred colored newspapers in the United States. To us they present an open door of opportunity. Most of them are supplied with news and pictures by the Associated Negro Press, Inc., of Chicago. There is a possibility of our getting a weekly article to about eighty of these through this syndicate. Truly the medium of the newspaper furnishes a great opening.