God's words in the language of men : the professionalization of the Southern Baptist Press
Although religion is and has been an integral aspect of society, its journalism has been overlooked. Media scholars have viewed the religious press as less worthy and less professional than its commercial counterparts, despite the fact that religious media reaches millions of people. This study illuminates the professional development of the Southern Baptist press as an example of religious media's effort to provide news and information to their audiences. Journalists in religious media balance their personal faith, the specific faith traditions for which they work, and professionalism. Southern Baptist journalists exhibited the traits, practices, and beliefs that mark journalistic professionalism. This dissertation shows how the Civil Rights Movement and the SBC's further shift to the theological and political right affected Southern Baptist journalism. Southern Baptist newsworkers lived their religion through the practice of journalism in spite of the denomination's institutional barriers. Freedom of the press and autonomy became the professional values most at stake for newsworkers as denominational leaders insisted journalists should concentrate on promotion. Through the Civil Rights Movement, most journalists tried to maintain a centrist position, pushing obedience to federal law and the effect on mission efforts overseas. A few courageous journalists pushed for Southern Baptists to recognize all people as children of God. The Southern Baptist Convention's further shift to the theological and political right cost several journalists their jobs and essentially returned SBC journalism to its promotional roots.