This is fascinating to me. It’s an inside look at how a publication tailored to evangelical Christian readers operates during the Trump era… and how it transformed from (what they thought was) a non-partisan publication into one that was Trump-or-bust at all costs, despite the best efforts of some writers.
It’s a long article, published at Arc Digital, but I’ll tell you what, I started reading it and kept going until I was finished because… wow. So much going on.
The writer is Napp Nazworth, who spent years working for the Christian Post as its political editor, from 2011 to 2019. The tipping point that led to his eventual resignation was having to publish an editorial defending Donald Trump… even though he — an editor — didn’t agree with it at all. His articles critical of Trump were getting revised without his okay. Some didn’t get published at all.
To state the obvious, Nazworth is a Christian and the publication espouses conservative Christian beliefs about abortion, homosexuality, and other issues. Criticize them for that all you want. But this particular issue is about whether evangelicals are obligated to support Trump. Nazworth doesn’t believe that at all. His bosses, however, felt they had to be on the Trump train — especially after Christianity Today‘s then-editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote an essay saying Trump needed to be removed from office following his impeachment in the House.
Nazworth announced his resignation days later, and we wrote about that at the time, but we never heard details beyond the editorial disagreement.
Now we have them.
Here’s just a taste of what he was dealing with:
While most of my time at CP I could write on the topics I wanted, I recall two separate occasions when I was told I couldn’t criticize prominent evangelical leaders Franklin Graham and Eric Metaxas. This made sense from a business perspective. Graham and Metaxas each have a huge and influential media presence and their audiences closely overlap with CP’s audience. All they would need to do is tell their followers to not read CP and CP would take a big financial hit. This is why it was easy at CP to be sharply critical of liberal leaders — their audiences didn’t overlap with ours, but criticizing prominent conservatives was problematic.
CP was good at reporting on church scandals, when it put forth the appropriate effort and resources. But sometimes certain leaders were viewed as off limits unless the scandal became too big to ignore. There was some squeamishness, for instance, over reporting on Falwell Jr.’s scandals, partly because Liberty University was an ad partner. We would eventually report those stories to show that we weren’t ignoring them, but never more than the bare minimum…
I didn’t know all that. Yet none of it is surprising.
It’s also not “journalism” in any real sense of the word when the angle of your coverage changes depending on who’s paying your bills.
Do yourself a favor and read the full story. There are parts of it I can sympathize with as someone else who’s been in the click-for-pay business, but lacking the independence to write about a topic as you see fit, even with editorial oversight, is a dealbreaker. Good for Nazworth for walking away from it.