Baptist Press: A Case of Curious Headlines

“A good blog headline is often the only factor that determines whether or not an article on your blog will be read. The idea that content is king is true, but some people miss out on reading that great content because there is nothing interesting in the headline that represents it.”  (Headline Writing Techniques That Just Work)

Don’t I know it!  With 89 blog posts and 89 headlines since beginning From Law to Grace in July, I am often painfully aware of the weak and otherwise poor headlines that I have chosen for some of my posts.  While I hope that people will read my posts regardless of the headline, the reality is that most will not bother to even read the first paragraph of what I have written unless they are first captivated by the headline.  If you are reading this post, I’ve at least grabbed your attention with my headline. 

I wish I could say that I have mastered the art of the headline, but I have not.  I’m still working on it.  Some of my headlines have obviously been home runs.  Perhaps coincidental, perhaps not, my three most-viewed posts, “Heroes & Villains in the SBC,” “The Slow Death of the Cooperative Program,” and “I Love NYC, But Hate Idea of a Mosque At Ground Zero,” all had intriguing headlines.  Yesterday’s headline, “Decision Points:  George Bush’s Faith,” was one that I struggled with and it showed in the number of folks who chose to read it.

I enjoy blogging and I enjoy writing.  However, I am called to be a pastor within the Southern Baptist Convention.  But, even though blogging is something that I do on the side, I still desire to communicate in such a way so as to reach as wide an audience as I possibly can.  I can accomplish that goal by continually polishing my writing skills and improving the quality of my headlines.  After all, if people are not reading what I am writing, then I am not being productive with my time.

One of the ways that I try to hone my headline writing skills is by reading other headlines.  Whether the headline comes from a blog, an online newspaper, or a news service, I usually click on those posts if the headline has piqued my curiosity.  Once I click on an individual post, I will read the first paragraph or two and will continue reading if the post is of interest to me.  I suspect that I am not alone in how I choose which posts to read and which ones to skip on any given day.

Because of my strong interest in following how the Great Commission Resurgence is playing in the various Baptist State Conventions, I have been paying particular attention to Baptist Press headlines over the last two months.  Some of BP’s headlines covering the annual meetings of the various State Conventions have been curious to me, not because they have been powerfully worded, but because they have been (almost) identically worded .  After yesterday’s headline, “New England Increases CP to 21.75%,”  I couldn’t help but review BP’s Baptist State Convention headlines for the past two months.  There was something strangely familiar about them, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. 

Hadn’t I just read a few days ago a similar-sounding headline?  In “S.C. ups CP%, creates GCR task force,” Baptist Press reported on the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  That’s so strange, I thought to myself.  Yet again, there was something vaguely familiar about the S.C. headline.  What, you may ask, was so familiar about it?  Well, on November 9, BP published an article about Colorado Baptists headlined, “Colo. Baptists increase CP, hear task force.” 

This was the second of at least four times that Baptist Press used the same kind of language in their headlines reporting about the State Convention.  The very first headline about CP increases came in an article, “BCNY votes CP increase, calls for prayer,” published on October 14.

Whether the staff at BP realized it or not, they were creating headlines that made me want to read the articles.  I guess that’s a good thing.  And, here’s where things get even more curious.  It is no secret that there has been a major push in the various State Conventions to have the GCRTF Recommendations, particularly the one “suggesting” that each autonomous State Convention “voluntarily” move to a 50-50 split of Cooperative Program funds, be implemented as soon as possible.  Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee are some of the larger State Conventions that recently approved increasing to 50% the amount of CP funds forwarded to Nashville.

Obviously, the more that individual State Conventions aggressively and quickly move to the 50-50 “ideal,” the more overall momentum that the GCR will obtain.  And, in churches, conventions, corporations, or politics, the bigger the mo, the better.  BP, therefore, does not report on the annual meetings in a vacuum.  Context should be king, especially in what and how they choose to report on the business conducted in the Baptist State Conventions. 

I would normally not give any of Baptist Press’ headlines a second thought.  However, I have pondered why the writers and/or editors of BP came up with the headlines that they did, especially the ones dealing with CP “increases” in New York, Colorado, South Carolina, and New England.  While each of these State Conventions voted to increase the percentage amount of Cooperative Program dollars that would be forwarded to the national SBC, the headlines, given the context of the issues surrounding the GCR and CP, can be viewed as inaccurate.  How so?

If one were to only read the headline of the four articles dealing with the above named conventions, one would have the strong impression that each of these states wholeheartedly had signed onto the GCR’s recommendation of moving to a 50-50 split.  However, one would have to read far into the body of the articles to realize that the “increases” are not quite as big as the headline would warrant.  In fact, taken together, all four state conventions increased their CP% to Nashville by a combined 1.31% (CO — .25%; NY — .25%; NE — .25%; SC — .56%).

To many, this whole business of dissecting headlines of BP articles is much ado about nothing.  Perhaps.  Maybe the folks at Baptist Press, without much forethought, hastily crafted a similar sounding headline on four separate occasions.  Maybe the writers and editors at BP were so busy writing the body of the articles that they simply did not have enough time to devote to creative and catchy headlines.  Hey, it happens to me more than I care to admit.  No big deal.

However, the next time that you are tempted to only read the headline at Baptist Press or one of your favorite blogs, you might want to read the article itself.  The rest of the story, to borrow a phrase from Paul Harvey, may just be buried somewhere deep inside!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
This entry was posted in Cooperative Program, Great Commission Resurgence, Southern Baptist Convention and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Baptist Press: A Case of Curious Headlines

  1. As I’ve heard it said: “There’s a lot less there than meets the eye.”

  2. TRB says:

    There’s a couple more questions that should be asked about this perception of “increased” CP giving. First, which specific line items were cut on the state side? what that’ll tell you is what the state says is of less political value than a perception of increased CP giving. Second, were any other line items increased at the state level?

    In most cases the adopted budgets are lower than the previous year, meaning net CP dollars will actually be reduced despite the touted “increase”–just not reduced as much as they otherwise would have been.

    • Howell Scott says:

      TRB,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I think that you raise some very pertinent questions that have yet to be asked or answered. In New Mexico, where I pastor, our overall State Convention budget was reduced for 2011, mainly because of the economy. As to specific line items, I think many State Conventions, including the BCNM, will be revising their bugets even more once NAMB fazes out the Cooperative Agreements. Because most of our state staff are dually funded with state and NAMB funds, we will have to find a way to fully fund our state staff. That could mean we forward even less to Nashville. Already there is talk among some churches in our state how they can designate more money to stay in state. “Great Commission Giving” will produce some interesting results. Thanks again and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! God bless,

      Howell

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