I love peaches, especially those fat juicy peaches that are ripened to perfection.
You know which ones I’m talking about; the kind that when you bite into them you lean forward to keep the juice from running down your forearm and dripping off your elbow. When you finish one of those you feel like you’re covered in peach juice – and you think, “Man, that was a good peach!”
But you know what? I’ll bet you’ve never eaten a peach like that and said, “Man, I’m glad that farmer nurtured that tree and pruned it every year so that it would produce fat, juicy peaches.”
Fat, juicy peaches don’t just happen. Untended trees experience a rapid decline in their annual production while trees that are consistently pruned flourish and actually realize an annual harvest increase.
We are pruning the Baptist & Reflector, the Baptist state paper of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. I love and appreciate the B&R, but the great needs and opportunities across Tennessee demand that we lay aside personal preferences and structure for a greater efficiency and effectiveness. We do that, and I believe the Baptist & Reflector’s most important days lie ahead.
Beginning next month, the Baptist & Reflector will move from publishing every week to publishing every two weeks. There are a number of reasons for this, and almost all of them are economical. The reality is that the cost of printing, and especially postage, has significantly increased over the years and it simply isn’t feasible for the Tennessee Baptist Convention to continue on a weekly production schedule. Additionally, the decrease in advertising that has historically offset the cost adds to the dilemma. The result: It’s time to prune.
Pruning is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very good thing. According to horticulturists at Virginia Tech University, the major objective of pruning older trees is to encourage the production of good fruiting shoots capable of supporting heavy crops and producing high quality peaches.
That’s what we believe pruning will do for the Baptist & Reflector. Most people don’t know that the Baptist & Reflector is celebrating its 179th year this year. I’d say that classifies it as an, “older tree.” In fact, it is one of the oldest Baptist state newspapers in the country. It has a tremendous legacy and Lonnie Wilkey has been an excellent steward of that legacy as editor for 16 years. Because of finances, however, his staff has slowly dwindled. Pruning to publishing every two weeks both reduces costs and allows our Baptist & Reflector team the margin necessary to plan and produce the quality stories Tennessee Baptists want to read about other Tennessee Baptists and our churches.
And let’s be honest about the newspaper industry in general. Secular news agencies have struggled for years with the financial burden of producing a hard copy version in an increasingly digital age. Many of them have slashed staff and eventually gone out of business.
Fortunately, we are not near that point. Lonnie has a renewed vision for integrating the Internet and adjusting the print version to better serve Tennessee Baptists. Switching to a biweekly production schedule allows him space to pursue that vision with abandon.
Guided by the information we gleaned from your input given in our recent B&R reader’s survey, these changes position us to see a growth in the paper’s importance and influence.
In John 15, Jesus makes the statement that the Father, “prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” For nearly two centuries the Baptist & Reflector has borne much fruit and pruning it to every two weeks will allow it to bear even more fruit in the future. That’s why I believe the Baptist & Reflector’s best days are dawning.
Readers may never say, “Man, I’m glad that editor nurtured the paper and pruned it so that he could produce this excellent paper.” And that’s okay with us. Lonnie’s team doesn’t produce the paper for the accolades.
He mostly just wants readers to enjoy the “peach.”