"> EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Reporting on The Network, and Long Form Journalism – Ministry Watch

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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Reporting on The Network, and Long Form Journalism

Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will comment on one or more stories in the week’s news, adding an additional perspective or, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes look at how the story came to be.

Reporting On The Network.  Steve Morgan has been a rising star in evangelicalism. Morgan is the lead pastor at Joshua Church in Austin, Tex., and the leader of a church planting group called The Network.  The Network has 26 affiliated churches in the U.S., the U.K., and Taiwan.

But a group called Leaving The Network says all is not well in The Network.  They say Morgan was arrested for sexual assault of a minor in 1987, when he was a 22-year-old youth leader for a church associated with the Reformed Latter-Day Saints (RLDS).  To read our story on this controversy, click here.  What I want to do here is not re-tell the story, but explain why we decided to report on a 35-year-old incident that occurred before Steve Morgan was a Christian.

A key reason is this:  Leaving The Network is now calling for an independent investigation of The Network.  This is not a 35-year-old event, but a 2022 event.  I should add that the “Call to Action” published by Leaving The Network is not the work of a single or a few disgruntled former employees.  It was signed by 18 former staff, elders, and deacons of Network churches.  The group has also created an online petition for others to sign.  So far, more than 250 people have signed the petition.

Since publishing this story we have heard from people on both sides.  People I respect tell me that The Network is a great organization.  This group is not a Mars Hill Church or a Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  If that’s so, the kind of open, independent investigation that Leaving The Network is calling for would allow The Network’s light to shine all the brighter.  It’s my hope that the leadership of The Network will view this new Call For Action not as a threat, but as an opportunity to tell a redemptive story to a watching world.

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Long-Form Journalism.  I want to make sure I call everyone’s attention to a story to a couple of pieces on the website that are a bit out of the ordinary for us.  They are what is known in the journalism world as a “long read,” or “long form journalism.”  We have done those from time to time, and I’ve noticed that they don’t get a lot of readers in the first week.  “Long reads” don’t often show up on our “Top 10 Stories of the Month.”

But they often do end up on the top stories of all time on our site?   Why?  Such stories have what is sometimes called a “long tail.”  Because they provide a perspective that is broader than what is in today’s news, they are relevant months and even years later.

This week we have a 4000-word article on the role Christian ministries are having on prison reform written by my friend and The King’s College professor Paul Glader.  This issue is a complicated one, but a consensus is building on both the left and the right.  Progressives want prison reform because they believe it is civil rights and even a human rights issue.  A growing number of conservatives are asking for reform for some of the same reasons, and because of all the waste, fraud, and abuse in the system.  Conservative icon Richard Viguerie once told me that the prison system is the biggest big government program in the country, and that if you are a limited government conservative, you should be paying attention to what’s going on in our prison system.

For Christians, the issue is even more urgent, because the Bible has specific commands regarding ministering to those in prison.  And a lot of Christian ministries – including Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest – have gotten involved.  Paul Glader’s story unpacks all this, and a lot more.

Stanford Financial Group.  The other long-form piece is by me.  We just passed the 10-year anniversary of the sentencing of Allen Stanford for one of the biggest financial frauds in history – more than $8 billion.  He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.  An important but untold component of this story is the role the evangelical community played in the life of Stanford Financial Group.  I unpack that relationship in a 4000-word article we posted this week to remember this fascinating story on its 10-year anniversary.

On The Road, Again.  I wanted to mention that I would be in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 19.  About a dozen people have already committed to join me for lunch that day.  If you live in Iowa and you’re on our daily email list, you should have already received an invitation, but if not, please shoot me an email and we’ll make sure you get one.  We have room for a few more.  My email is wsmith@ministrywatch.com

Because of all the travel, we’ll be taking some time off from the podcast.  Just one week, so don’t fret, and feel free to get caught up on any episodes you haven’t listened to yet.  But we’ll be back on the 29th.  

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Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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