Advocates for Christ no more

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After taking its lumps for a couple of weeks, the World Journalism Institute has toned down its Christian advocacy mission statement. It no longer states the goal is to train Christian reporters to enter newsrooms as a "counter-thrust to the secular media." The new "Why We Exist" section of the WJI website says that "Christians, joining those of many persuasions in the newsroom, can be beneficial in accurately understanding and reporting the events of the day."

An excerpt:

3) We believe in a personal God who is truth and who is sovereign over the affairs of this world; therefore the Christian journalist should be fearless in presenting all views of a given issue and should not intend to be the censor of ideas before those ideas reach the marketplace. The Christian in journalism will let the Lord of truth sort things out in the marketplace of ideas.

4) We believe that journalism is a noble calling for a Christian. The Christian in journalism is in the newsroom to report, write and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. Factual accuracy in news reporting, undiminished and undistorted by attitudes and outlooks, is the bedrock of the trade.

The group's advocacy agenda had drawn attention after it became known that discredited USA Today reporter Jack Kelley and the L.A. Times' Roy Rivenburg, among several other mainstream journalists, helped train WJI students. Director Robert Case apologizes to them, calls the criticism of WJI justified and explains in an email to Romenesko that the mission statement was outdated and sloppily written -- by him:

The World Journalism Institute has recently come under criticism in some blog quarters concerning its mission statement and its rationale for existence. The criticism has been directed towards the wording in our mission statement that suggests the Institute seeks to train Christian journalists to bend the news to fit a preconceived (presupposed) worldview shaped by the Bible, and then to send those propagandists into the mainstream newsrooms as agents (cadre) of Christianity.

The criticism, while unpleasant, is on target given that particular mission statement. The justly criticized mission statement was written in l998 and l999 and posted by me. It was artlessly written and then mostly forgotten until the last couple of weeks when the Jack Kelley investigation was concluded. Jack had been scheduled as one of our luncheon speakers, and so the connection was made by some. And then the fun began.

My poor guest teachers, members in good standing of the working press, lent their fine names and reputations to the Institute to help instruct college-age aspiring journalists who are Christian. These friends were blindsided as they were caught up in unfair criticism due to my sloppiness in wording. While we never discussed philosophic views or practices of journalism, the overwhelming majority of my guest teachers would repudiate advocacy journalism as legitimate for mainstream reporters. I know that we at the Institute do.

If anyone is interested in our revised mission statement, written as a result of the blog criticism, one can go to "Why we exist" on our web page at I remain apologetic to all my esteemed colleagues who have been attacked due to my confused and imprecise wording.

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