Newspaper publicity is vital in the program of evangelism today. And this is not by chance. When the Master was among men, He taught them in the market places. The Eastern bazaar is unknown in the Western World, and even the market square of the old towns has disappeared ; but trade still continues. The modern market place is the newspaper.
Keeping the church in the news means more than an occasional advertisement. It is good to advertise in the paper, but a news write-up has more pulling power than most paid ads. We must remember, though, that the newspaper is a newspaper, and if we hope to get free publicity in this modern market place, we must be sure that we are making news and that what we present is really news. Therefore, in submitting something to the editor, make sure it has news value and that it is written in reporter style.
If we are advertising regularly in the paper, and our meetings are both popular and representative, we will usually get good co-operation from the editors. This is true of even the largest newspapers. The proper introduction to an editor will go a long way in helping to secure his interest and friendship. The advertising manager can often prove a real friend at such a time. But never make the mistake of suggesting to the editor, as some have done, that because you are taking so many inches of paid space, you are therefore entitled to a certain amount of "free space." That attitude may close the door to you completely, and in any case it will reveal your lack of understanding of newspaper policy. A good newspaper just does not have "free space." Its columns are either for news or for advertisers. But if you are making news (and every Adventist evangelist and pastor should be), and what you submit is written up in acceptable reporter style, then most editors will be glad to receive your contributions.
To produce a picture of some definite feature of interest in your work, such as an unusually large crowd standing in line waiting to get into the meeting, or the arrival of some important visitor, such as a city or State official or an out-of-town guest speaker, is reporting news. If the picture is accompanied by a short story it will always be welcome. An illustration will emphasize the point : We had been conducting our meetings for some weeks in the beautiful and commodious city auditorium in Riverside, California, and the Lord was signally blessing our efforts. So prospective was the interest that we decided to ask for an extension of time.
The city authorities were co-operative and complied with our request to extend our time to eight months. This made news, and important news, because the auditorium had never been leased for that length of time for anything else. Seizing the opportunity, we notified one of the newspapers, which sent its photographer to take a picture of the evangelist and the auditorium secretary in the act of signing a new contract. The picture was published that same evening as a four-column cut on one of the best pages in the largest paper in the city, with an accompanying story. Since it was the longest lease ever granted to anyone, it was news, and in that sense it was free advertising.
That kind of publicity is too valuable to miss, for it has much more pulling power than the ordinary paid ad on the church page. First, it reveals to the public the attitude of the city officials toward our work ; and second, it acquaints readers of the paper with the fact that our evangelistic program has some permanence —two very important things for the public to know. Every newspaper is looking for news, and if we are making news the editors are glad to get it. Let us, like the Master, be found in the market places.
R. A. A.