Posted on : Wednesday April 1, 2009

By Sharon Mager, Staff Correspondent

COLUMBIA, Md.—Baptist editors from across the country gathered in Horseshoe Bay, Texas in February for their annual Association of State Baptist Papers (ASBP) editors meeting to encourage one another, refocus, listen to special speakers, network and worship God. At the close of this year’s meeting, Bob Simpson, BaptistLIFE’s executive editor, was elected as president of the association.

Simpson will plan next year’s meeting, invite the guests and give the annual presidential message. That meeting will be Feb. 9-12 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

The new president takes his position at a time when printed state paper subscriptions are declining. Many believe it is due partially to the economy, but mostly because younger Christian leaders prefer to receive their news electronically. Simpson said that in the foreseeable future there is still a market for printed papers, but looking ahead, he sees a time when printed state papers will be no more.

“The younger crowd clearly prefers to get their information and news, religious and secular, in the electronic format,” he said.

Simpson is planning a program for next year’s meeting to help editors meet the changing news needs and inevitable transitions. He has invited John Yemma, named editor of the Christian Science Monitor in July, to be the keynote speaker.

Prior to his new position at the Christian Science Monitor, Yemma served in senior editing positions for the Boston Globe, most recently as the Globe’s deputy managing editor for multimedia, helping the paper make the transition from an all print to a more diversified delivery system. Yemma is expected to guide the Christian Science Monitor through a similar transition process.

Simpson believes Yemma’s experience will be a great resource to Baptist state paper editors, and that Yemma will be able to share the necessary steps to take as well as those to avoid when moving to an all or partial electronic delivery system.

Mississippi Baptist Convention executive director, James Futral, will also be a special guest at the meeting, bringing morning devotions for the three-day meeting.

Reflecting on his 10 years as editor of BaptistLIFE, Simpson said he’s proud of how the paper has evolved.

“We have a unique position from many of our sister state papers in that we are 100 percent Cooperative Program funded. Our paper is free of charge to any Maryland or Delaware Baptist who wishes to receive it.

BaptistLIFE has a rich heritage. We have been published in some name or another for over 150 years,” he said.

Simpson explained that like other papers, BaptistLIFE has had to adjust to today’s trends – smaller attention spans, less denominational loyalty and reader desire to hear good news as opposed to investigative journalism. The paper uses shorter stories, in a positive, informative manner, focusing on what God is doing in our churches and associations across the two-state convention.

BaptistLIFE’s distribution has also changed from being delivered in printed form eleven months out of a year to printing six and now offering an electronic version for the alternating months. In order to receive the electronic version, all someone has to do is provide his or her email address and the non-printed version will be sent directly to them. Breaking stories between regular issues can also then be sent to a person’s email address. Just go to to sign up.

Simpson said state papers, in whatever form they eventually take, will always be used to continue to tell how God is working through His people.
“Each state and each editor does it differently depending on the local context. But the tapestry woven by each state’s papers produces a powerful glimpse into the health and soul of who Southern Baptists are in each respective state.”