Broadcasting Religious News

My recent experiences with this media.

PERCY W. LAMB, Pastor-Evangelist, Michigan Conference

For the past two years I have been broad­casting "The Adventist Bible Hour" weekly over WBCM in Bay City, Michigan, each Sun­day morning. Recognizing that it would be difficult to compete against the many fine re­ligious programs that larger budgets make pos­sible, I decided to try a religious newscast as part of the half-hour program. Following the opening prayer, I present five minutes of "the latest news from the world of religion," as I call it. The listener reaction convinces me that the news helps hold a larger audience than would be possible otherwise.

Not long ago Billy Graham made the state­ment that "religion is hot news." And he is right. Not only are the newspapers and magazines in­creasing their coverage of religious news; so are the radio stations. In response to my in­quiry, Lillian R. Block, assistant managing editor of Religious News Service, informed me that the Religious News Reporter, which their service prepares, is now going out over nearly two hundred stations throughout the country. And Henry B. Adams, a clergyman who heads the Radio and Television Department of San Francisco Theological Seminary, began a reli­gious news script service in 1949 that has grown steadily until it is now being used by about twenty-five stations.

Advantages

There are several advantages to including re­ligious news in a broadcast. First, a religious newscast can have a wide appeal. It will reach people who would never be reached with other types of radio programming. And it can bear witness to the church's interest in events and people. The way a broadcaster handles news that involves other churches can do more to win friends and break down prejudice than the preaching of many a sermon. Practically every week there is news of some church's kind deeds, or another church's stand for principle, that should be commended.

Also, the news portion of your broadcast presents a better opportunity to weave in news about Seventh-day Adventists than is ordinarily available to the local broadcaster. This is espe­cially true since most journals covering reli­gious news do not play up news concerning Seventh-day Adventists as much as we would like.

Furthermore, the religious news provides an excellent opportunity to make telling editorial comment on pertinent news. For example, last spring some religious magazines gave quite a bit of space to the theological controversy rag­ing in Norway over the subject of hell-fire. This gave me an opportunity to side with Bishop Kristian Schjelderup, who does not believe the fires of hell are burning now.

70,000 Religious Broadcasts

It has been estimated that during 1953 Protes­tant and Orthodox churches in the United States went on the air about seventy thousand times with some kind of religious broadcast. Frankly, that is a lot of competition for the minister who is giving the third angel's message over the air. We know we have a message of real hope for a perishing world, but is our pro­gramming of that message unique and so well done that those who listen will also be con­vinced? We must remember that ours may be the "umpteenth" religious service the listener has tuned in that day. Is the program we bring to him so fresh and inspiring that his soul will be refreshed and stirred? Will our program be able to hold his attention in the face of his increased determination to tune in some pro­gram that is really good?

I can think of nothing the average gospel broadcaster can afford that will bring a genu­ine freshness to his program, week after week, like the presentation of the latest news concern­ing religion. And I feel it is time for the voice of Seventh-day Adventist ministers to be heard giving to the news the interpretation that our understanding of prophetic events warrants. We do preach prophecy, but it seems to me that a stronger featuring of news would bring an in­creased listener appeal that would be helpful in strengthening our broadcasting.

What are the best sources of news? The daily paper and leading news journals feature it today. And our denominational papers, such as THE MINISTRY, the Review and Herald, These Times, and the Signs of the Times, are excel­lent. Gabriel Courier's column in the Christian Herald is a good source for news. However, I have found that the Christian Century has been the best single source for information.

Those who may be interested in religious newscasting will appreciate a pamphlet pub­lished by the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of Churches. It is "Religious Newscasting," by Harold Quigley. (Cost: 10 cents.) You may secure this by writing to the Broadcasting and Film Commission at 220 Fifth Avenue, New York 1, New York.

Sample News Scripts

Our editors were impressed with the idea set forth in this article; hence we asked Elder Lamb to share some of his actual newscasting scripts with you. These are presented here in an abbreviated form just to give you the "idea." Usually about six to eight items of news are presented.]

Sunday Morning Broadcast, June 6, 1954

  1. Recently, in Lakeland, Florida, a 42-year-old woman died from the bite of a rattlesnake she han­dled at a religious service. Sheriff B. E. Branch re­ported the woman (Mrs. Turner Parker) was bitten during outdoor services at the little town of Naylor, Florida. [Bay City Times, June 1, 1954.] I think it is a tragedy that these poor folk will play with rattlesnakes. They seem to forget the Scriptural warning against such practices recorded in Deuter­onomy 6:16, which says: "Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God." There's no question in my mind but that playing with poisonous snakes is tempting God. Sad to say, the Lord withdrew His protection from this poor woman.
  2. Down in Argentina the Argentine Government is beginning to relax its rigid anti-Protestant atti­tude. As a matter of fact, it almost seems friendly to some Protestants. Protestant radio programs are now back on the air there for the first time in five years. "The Voice of Prophecy," Seventh-day Ad­ventist program, was heard again the first Sunday in March. Other Protestant programs have also been allowed to broadcast again. [The Christian Century, June 2, 1954.]
  3. Tomorrow will be the Jewish Pentecost, Shabu­oth, or the Feast of Weeks. For Jews the festival has a double character; it is a harvest event, and also commemorates the day on which Moses received the Ten Commandments—or the gift of the law. [Bay City Times, June 5, 1954.] It's encouraging to hear that the Jews thus honor the law of God. Surely all Protestants should faithfully endeavor, by the grace of God, to keep every one of His Ten Commandments.
  4. Yesterday was the last day of the great 47th General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists at San Francisco. More than 1,000 delegates from 108 countries met in this great quadrennial conference. Some of the figures released from this conference, as reported in yesterday's Bay City Times, are: Last year Seventh-day Adventists in the United States and Canada had a per capita giving record of $181.57. And, by the way, this heavy giving is part of the reason why the church is able to carry on foreign mission work in 198 of the 232 countries of the world. At present the church operates 181 hos­pitals and clinics and 40 publishing houses. Last year these 40 publishing houses put out over $17 million worth of literature. And for the last four years Seventh-day Adventists have published about S60 million worth of literature.

Mayor Elmer Robinson of San Francisco and Governor J. Goodwin Knight of California both spoke to the convocation, which on weekends num­bered about 25,000.

Sunday Morning Broadcast, June 13, 1954

 

  1. Here's an encouraging report out of Russia. The Southern Baptist Convention's news service reports that a recent issue of Bratsk); Vestnik ("Brotherly Messenger"), published in Moscow, re­veals that churches of the Evangelical Christian-Baptist Union are now to be found throughout the Soviet Union. The 58 congregations in the Kharkov area have a combined membership of 5,967. One Kharkov church seats 1,000 persons, while the Bap­tist church in Moscow has room for 2,500. [The Christian Century, June 9, 1954.] It is encouraging to hear that the Baptists are able to gain this foot­hold in atheistic Russia. Surely the Lord is blessing souls even in Russia.
  2. We've heard of many world conferences this year, including the world council to be held at Evanston, Illinois, and the Seventh-day Adventist world conference at San Francisco, which is now over. But the Buddhists are going to hold their sixth world conference in a cave constructed outside Rangoon, in Burma. The Buddhists plan to have their conference last for two years. We understand they are anxious to start some kind of world con­version program. By the way, the Moslems are at­tempting something of the same thing. [The Chris­tian Century, June 9, 1954.]
  3. Since I am talking on the Christian Home this morning, this news item from the National Congress of Parents and Teachers—recently held at Atlantic City—is important. Bertram M. Beck told this con­gress that juvenile delinquency is leaving the slums and appearing in better communities because the home, the church, and the school are . . . [The Christian Century, June 9, 1954.]

Sunday Morning Broadcast, June 20, 1954

  1. Well, there has been an unusual anticlimax to our Bible contest. The other day I received a letter from Dr. E. R. Thiele, dean of the Bible Depart­ment in Emmanuel Missionary College at Berrien Springs, in which Dr. Thiele tells me he has a He­brew Bible that was printed in Italy in 1517. This would be 437 years old. Dr. Thiele's Bible would thus nose out Mr. Hugo Schmidt's 1524 Bible as the oldest in Michigan in private hands. However, Mr. Schmidt's Bible is still the oldest so far discovered in this area in private hands.
  2. Recently we told you of four Adventist boys in the Army up in Alaska who were court-martialed for refusing to take part in a practice alert on their Sabbath, which is Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Three of the boys are Seventh-day Adventists and one belongs to the Seventh-day Church of God. Well, the boys have been freed. Radio Commentator
  3. Paul Harvey went to the defense of the boys, and six United States Senators also talked to the De­fense Department in their behalf. As a result the boys were freed from prison. The boys were court-martialed February 4 and released February 25, thus being in the prison stockade only three weeks. [See Review and Herald, March 18, 1954.]
  4. Here's the latest estimate on the future habits of our youth when it comes to the use and consump­tion of liquor and tobacco. The belief is that one out of three girls will be drinking by the time they reach 23 years of age, one out of four boys will be drinking by the time they become 21 years of age, and one out of three teen-agers in the United States is smoking cigarettes today. What a tragedy—and I mean a real tragedy. [Review and Herald, March 18, 1954.]
  5. Ordinarily I'm very much against smuggling, for under most circumstances it is a breaking of proper laws. But here's a case of smuggling I believe most of our listeners will hope succeeds. Basil An­dreyevitch Malof is a 70-year-old smuggler of Bibles. And the destination of his booty is a land behind the iron curtain. Already 81,000 Bibles have passed unnoticed under the watchful eyes of border pa­trols to feed the hungry hearts beyond. Mr. Malof's prayer is: "God grant that I will be a good smug­gler," for "the Bible is the one thing that can sustain the people." I say "Amen" to this Bible smuggler's prayer. [Signs of the Times, March 16, 1954.]
  6. Well, here's something new in the field of re­ligion that this preacher has never heard of before. Members of the Greenleafton, Minnesota, Reformed Church helped finance a $200,000 church by selling more than $16,000 worth of blood to Mayo Clinic in Rochester (Minnesota). Think of it! Church members giving away blood to raise $16,000 for their church building! [The Christian Century, March 17, 1954.]
  7. Billy Graham recently turned down a one­million-dollar-a-year contract to become a radio and television entertainer for the National Broadcasting Company. [The Christian Century, March 17, 1954.]

[Further correspondence with Elder Lamb about his plan of religious newscasting brought this addi­tional information to the attention of your editors:]

"You will notice that I do not give local church news or announcements in this news period. I care for that in the announcement period. Also I try to be careful not to overdo the presentation of S.D.A. news. Many weeks I don't even mention the church. In that way listeners won't feel that the news period is too much of a 'propaganda' period. When read­ing script I seldom give the source of the news. If the issue is particularly controversial I sometimes give the news source, but ordinarily I don't, for fear of cluttering up the news.

"I endeavor to say something Dice about as many different churches as possible. For instance, once in a while I'll quote a Catholic priest on some perti­nent issue, and commend the priest for the wise statement and say how much I agree with it, etc. Then in the newscast for June 13, item 1, you will notice I mention how good it is that the Baptists have made some gains in Russia. (I hope it made some Baptists feel good toward the broadcast.) From time to time I try to bring in various churches with items of interest that I can safely commend.

"I might add that a neighboring WCTU group (in a town about fifty miles away) so appreciated my 'blasts' at the evil of drink that they voted to send me a year's subscription to the Union Signal, national paper of their organization.

"Whenever possible I quote items of interest about S.D.A.'s from public newspapers and other journals, such as The Christian Century, Newsweek, etc. I feel it has more effectiveness when quoted from some such journal."


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PERCY W. LAMB, Pastor-Evangelist, Michigan Conference

March 1955

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