Reflecting on 2015, Looking Forward to 2016


Donations from individuals, foundations, local churches and denominational bodies help underwrite our work, Dawes writes. (Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

One message is appearing more and more as I peruse the Internet for daily news and perspective pieces: "A subscription is required to view this content."

The Wall Street Journal allows you to read the first paragraph of its articles without a subscription. Monthly rates range from $28.99 to $32.99.

The New York Times restricts nonpaying users to 10 articles a month. Access to additional online content costs $3.75 to $8.75 weekly.

The Guardian does not restrict most of their online content, but offers advertisement free subscriptions (and a few additional resources) for $19.99 per month.

My local paper, the Austin American Statesman, provides five free online article views per month. There is a $0.99 per day subscription option or a weekly rate ranging from $3.92 to $5.77.

Even niche publications like Catholic News Service require paid membership to view certain portions of their online content, with annual subscription options of $79 and $99.

This trend is nearly two decades old, and the International News Media Association reported last November that "nearly three out of four newspapers surveyed (73 percent) are currently charging readers to access online content."

The ever-increasing model of subscription-only online content has been on my mind as I've considered EthicsDaily.com's 2015 publications.

As managing editor, my role is to facilitate the publication of centrist moral resources that can help our readers constructively engage contemporary issues relevant to their lives and to the work and witness of the local church.

While our undated PDF Bible study units and documentary films are available for purchase, the majority of our content - including daily articles, video interviews and photo news stories - is provided without subscription fees.

Adapting a "MasterCard" commercial from recent years, here is a quick "by the numbers" overview of this past year's initiatives:

  • Columns (opinion pieces): 482 and counting.
  • News articles: almost 100.
  • Unique contributors: 150 to date (from 21 U.S. states and nine countries).
  • Profiles in Goodwill: 61 (139 since September 2014).
  • Video clips and interviews: 35 and counting.
  • Photo news stories: eight.
  • Resourcing churches to advance the common good: _____.

The MasterCard ad would suggest that blank should be filled with "priceless." That would be pretentious for me to assert, yet I hope you find our resources highly valuable.

Numbers can't adequately encapsulate the various initiatives the Baptist Center for Ethics / EthicsDaily.com undertakes, and quality is much more important to us than quantity. But these figures offer a sense of the scope of our annual initiatives.

As I reflect on what these figures represent, three 2015 resources stand out:

1. "Profiles in Goodwill" series: Launched in September 2014 and continued throughout much of 2015, these profiles introduced readers to global Baptists and other faith leaders working to make a positive impact in their communities.

2. Baptist World Congress coverage: EthicsDaily.com readers learned about the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Durban, South Africa, via hundreds of photos, 26 videos and 10 articles.

3. Genocide article series: In conjunction with April's Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month, we published a series of 10 articles explaining the origins of the term, the ways that governments have responded (or failed to respond), and more.

Again, this daily content is provided free of charge to our global readers, but the adage, "nothing is free in this world" remains true.

Donations from individuals, foundations, local churches and denominational bodies help underwrite our work.

Of course, our initiatives are also made possible by donations of another sort - our valued global contributors whose content appears on our site each week.

As denominational budgets shrink, so too does the funding they can provide. Gone are the days in which individuals gave to churches which gave to denominations which provided a majority of the annual budget to their partner organizations like EthicsDaily.com.

This change means we have to find ways to increase funding from other giving sources. You can help us address this shift in several ways:

For those who already do some or all of these suggestions, our staff is deeply appreciative of your support that enables us to provide relevant, positive, centrist moral resources.

For those who enjoy our daily content but haven't yet donated, I hope you'll consider making a gift.

Donations can be made online in $10 or $50 increments. Checks can be mailed to Baptist Center for Ethics, P.O. Box 150506, Nashville, TN 37215.

Everyone in our organization is mindful of being good stewards of your gifts. With an admitted bias, I would note that we produce more high quality content than most might expect us to with our comparatively limited budget and staff (three full-time and four part-time employees).

That being said, I know there are many causes and organizations carrying out praiseworthy initiatives. And, like you, I receive seemingly ubiquitous appeals for funding.

So, writing an article encouraging donations is as uncomfortable as delivering a sermon on tithing was during my time working in local churches.

But when you believe that the work you are doing is important and feel that the resources being offered are high quality and relevant to churches, it makes the appeal much easier.

I hope you'll help us finish out 2015 on a high note so that we can begin 2016 with sufficient financial resources in place to continue providing first rate, centrist moral resources to global people of goodwill who desire to advance the common good in their communities.

Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachDawes_Jr.

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