EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: The New Year Brings Changes To MinistryWatch
We’re making some “tweaks” to the way we do things to serve you better
Editor’s Note: Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will offer his opinion on stories in the week’s news or, sometimes, offer a behind-the-scenes look at how and why we do what we do.
By temperament and conviction, I am an incrementalist. The Beatles sang, “You say you want a revolution?” My answer is, “Uh, no thanks. I’m good.” When I hear about the “Sexual Revolution” or the “Industrial Revolution” or even the ‘Jesus Revolution,” I think, “Beware of the law of unintended consequences, and be careful what you ask for.”
But sometimes change is necessary, even good. Not all changes are improvements, but all improvements require change.
That’s why, from time to time, we make incremental changes here at MinistryWatch, and I’d like to highlight a few changes we’ve made in the past few weeks that we hope will allow us to serve you better in the future.
Changes To The Home Page. We recently changed the look of our front page to increase the number of featured stories from three to five.
When we re-launched the MinistryWatch website in 2019, we worked hard to post one new article a day. But today we post three to five new articles a day, and articles were rolling off the front page too quickly. We want our new articles to stay on the front page longer so they can get the readership they deserve. This new format will allow that.
I also want to mention that, for technical reasons I won’t bore you with, the style of our sub-heads (sometimes called “deck heads” in the journalism trade) were sometimes hard to read, but standard WordPress templates wouldn’t let us format them the way we wanted. We bit the bullet and hired someone who could write software code. He made changes that are not possible in the normal WordPress templates. The result, we think, makes our heads and sub-heads easier to read.
An Investigations Page. One of the things we have learned here at MinistryWatch is that important stories often unfold over time. When The Charlotte Observer won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Bakker/PTL scandal, it did more than 900 articles over a three-year period. If you looked at just one of those articles you would not have gotten the whole story, or understood its significance. The same can be said of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, which did more than 500 stories as part of its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Catholic Church clergy sex scandal.
Over the past four years, MinistryWatch has found itself returning again and again to certain stories: Ravi Zacharias, Kanakuk, Hillsong, Jerry Falwell and Liberty University, Bible translation, John Ankerberg, Mark Driscoll, and more. Some of these stories have involved us writing more than 50 articles, tens of thousands of words. We have aggregated these articles on a newly created “Investigations” page. This page will allow you to get a more complete and nuanced understanding of these topics, and they allow us to highlight stories that we think have particular significance.
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On This Date at MinistryWatch. For the past three years, I have included in my “Weekly Review” article a section called “On This Date.” This section served two purposes. First, I’m a sucker for these “look back” features, and I thought some of you might be interested, too. Turns out I was right. Some people tell me it’s the only reason they read my “Weekly Review” columns. Thanks, I guess.
A second reason is just as important. This column imposes journalistic discipline on us here at MinistryWatch. What happened to the person who was indicted for a crime last year, or two years ago? What about the natural disaster that took place four years ago that everyone was giving money to? Where did the money go? Should we do a follow-up story? Often, the answer to that question is “yes.” Almost every week I assign a reporter to do a follow-up story based on our “On This Date” feature, or we add an “Editor’s Note” to update the older story.
However, as time has gone by, the “On This Date” feature has grown. It caused my “Weekly Review” column to swell to 1200 or even 1400 words. The column was trying to do too much, and it was becoming harder for readers to find what they were looking for.
So Kim Roberts, who shares my passion for this kind of “look back” column, has taken over this feature, and we will publish it as a separate column most Thursdays here at MinistryWatch. My “Weekly Review” column will continue to appear every Friday.
If you have read this far into what is essentially an “under the hood” look at the MinistryWatch engine, that says something about you. You’re a part of the MinistryWatch “inner circle.” You are a MinistryWatch Nerd. You care about what we do and how we do it. From one nerd to another, I offer a hearty “thank you.”
It is for you that we do what we do.