Inform and Do No Harm: Combating Fake News
As Christian journalists, we should take pride in the accuracy and truthfulness of our work, but doubly so. Not only is your credibility at risk, but your testimony. The rampant invasion of fake news makes it imperative that we focus on fact-checking to produce a true and excellent product.
Fake news aims to confuse the audience to the point where no one trusts the media at all. When Wikipedia first launched, it was generally acknowledged that it wasn’t a reliable source. However, now it feels as though you must carefully scrutinize the source and agenda behind everything you read online.
“Misinformation spreads because it appeals to people’s ‘political sweet tooth.’…But the speed at which it spreads is largely due to advances in technology,” said Bianca Fortis in her article “The fact-checking army waging war on ‘fake news’” for International Journalists’ Network.
“In 2019, the top 100 fake news stories on Facebook were viewed over 150 million times” according to Ben Gilbert of Business Insider in his recent article “The 10 most-viewed fake-news stories on Facebook in 2019 were just revealed in a new report.”
You’re not alone
Taking the high road may feel lonely. But rest assured, there are journalists in Christian and secular media striving to combat fake news. One journalist, Margo Gontar, co-founded the Ukrainian fact-checking website StopFake in 2014. Measures are being put into place to stop the spread across Asia, as mentioned in this 2018 article by Shotaro Tani.
Another journalist, Rick Brunson, associate instructor of journalism at the University of Central Florida, encouraged his students and fellow professionals to print the truth, “[I] headed down to the Orlando Sentinel where I’m blessed to work with a team of amazing professionals who put whatever personal feelings they may have aside to write, edit, shoot, and deliver an accurate record of the day’s historic events. Our quarterback, the news editor, stood and told us all: ‘Let’s make sure we get this right. Our readers are counting on us.’ I could not have been more proud of him or our team, the supposedly ‘fake news’ mainstream media.”
As you produce content for your magazine, browse these related resources as you strive to print the truth:
- “I wrote a story that became a legend. Then I discovered it wasn’t true” by Mark Gardiner, Columbia Journalism Review
- Fake News, Truth-Telling and Charles M. Sheldon’s Model of Accuracy: How a Clergyman Insisted on Accuracy as Job One by Michael Ray Smith, MTI trainer
- tips on fact-checking by Kim Petit, chair of the board of MTI
We’ve rounded up all the resources you might have missed! Here are our best on-demand workshops and e-books of 2019:
- [e-book] Developing writers
- [workshop] Axis: The one conversation model
- [e-book] How to design a powerful cover
- [workshop] Tell it online: Create interactive and engaging online media
- [e-book] Editorial management
- [workshop] Worldwide trends in magazine publishing
- [e-book] Training writers
- [workshop] Skillful self-editing: The fastest route to publication
- [e-book] Writing leads and conclusions
- [workshop] The power of what we do and do not say
- [e-book] The skillful use of typography
- [workshop] Using photography in magazine design
P.S. Have you read our blog? We offer weekly tips and news related to magazine publishing on the toughest challenges in the world of magazine writing, editing, management, design, digital publishing, and more. We’d love to hear what you’re struggling with most, submit your questions here.
As you edit a magazine, often you start at the beginning of the magazine and work forward, through the content to the end. This is a normal process for editing. However, after multiple cycles of editing, if you always start with the first article, then your attention to detail may decrease as you get to the last article in the issue.
For a near-final draft of the magazine, you can get a fresh perspective by starting on the last page of the magazine and working backwards. This way, you may notice things that you otherwise might have missed. As you get familiar with content, your brain may not see errors, as your brain fills in correct words even if you have them incorrectly in the actual article.
I don’t mean you should read completely backwards, starting with the last word. You can proofread one paragraph at a time, starting with the last paragraph in an article. While it won’t really make sense in reverse, forcing yourself to stop and look at each paragraph, sentence, and word will sharpen your editorial focus.
This exercise can be helpful after you have already done the big-picture editing for meaning and flow. It slows you down enough to catch mistakes such as missing words or typographical errors.
Also, focusing on the last article in your issue of the magazine when your brain is fresh means that the last impression your reader gets (assuming they read the magazine in order, which is not necessarily true) will be a strong, quality article.
The next time you are reading through your magazine to edit articles, try reading backwards!
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
The how-to book of magazine publishing
The wisdom and experience of 11 Christian publishing professionals shines through the pages of this practical how-to book of magazine publishing. In the 212 information-packed pages of the Introduction to Magazine Publishing, you’ll find an overview of everything you need to know to publish a successful Christian magazine.
Whether you have a great idea for a new magazine or you want to strengthen and improve an existing one, you will find the tips and tools you need.
The book is divided into separate sections on magazine business, editing, and design, which may be dipped into for information on how to solve specific problems. Or, the book may be read from cover to cover for a complete understanding of the entire publishing process.
You’ll discover how to apply sound business principles to establish your magazine on a solid foundation. You’ll learn how to work with writers and how to craft articles that touch the hearts and lives of readers. And you’ll master design principles to create an attractive magazine that draws and engages readers. Although most information is geared to print publishing, in each of the three sections you’ll learn how to apply the principles to a digital magazine.
Introduction to Magazine Publishing is the result of decades of experience training magazine staff worldwide and brings together in one place the fundamental magazine publishing principles necessary to successful magazine publishing.
The book is edited by Sharon Mumper, president of Magazine Training International, a non-profit organization that has provided publishing resources and training worldwide for 31 years.
Magazines often survey their readers in order to create a subscriber profile, which they provide to prospective advertisers. The vital information may be presented to advertisers in a variety of forms.
The subscriber profile differs from the profile of the target reader. Rather than describing the ideal reader in great detail so that the magazine staff know who to gear the content and design to, the subscriber profile presents potential advertisers with details about your actual readership so they know what to advertise about in your publication.
Subscriber profiles are a key component in media kits.
Media kits sent to potential advertisers usually include some or all of the following pieces:
a. Cover letter
b. Rate card
c. Copy of a recent issue of your magazine
d. Subscriber profile
e. Information on special issues or special themes coming up
Get your magazine listed with hundreds of others from around the world in our directory
We are passionate about helping Christian magazine publishers succeed, and we love hearing about magazines we haven’t met yet. Please introduce yourself and we’ll add information about your magazine to our online directory. Not only does it help us learn more about you so we can serve you better, but it provides information so others, including potential writers, can find you.
Has God given you a vision for magazine publishing? Over the years we have shared the stories of people through whom God has worked in their magazine publishing ministry. Their experience, their magazine, and their challenges are all different, but the call from God is the same. We want to hear your story. Have you launched a Christian magazine or restored an existing magazine? Please tell us how God led you into publishing and what has happened in the years since you began your publishing ministry. Please email Jennifer with the story of your journey.
Here are some of the stories of others God has called to magazine publishing:
- Alina and Estera
- Sarolta and Botond
Where do great ideas for your magazine, blog, or website come from? Everywhere!
As you plan content, you want to listen widely to gather more ideas than you need. The top of a funnel is very wide, it captures everything that flows from above. Just like a funnel, you want to collect many ideas for content, so that you aren’t limiting your thinking. Later in the planning process you need to narrow down the many ideas to a few great ones, but if you limit too soon, you might miss some great thinking.
Listen for needs
Whether you are scanning social media, blogs, or talking to people in your sphere of influence, listen to the needs people are expressing. Or the needs they are not sharing about. Often people will not be as direct as saying, “I need to learn how to handle conflict in my marriage.” But by observing how they act, what they share, and even what they don’t share, you may be able to infer their real needs.
As you listen to more sources and in different settings, try to spot trends. If you keep hearing similar needs or issues in several settings, pay attention. Your listening can include places such as coffee shops, lines in the grocery store, Bible studies, work groups or neighborhood gatherings.
Listen from diverse sources
While your content should focus on a specific audience segment, such as Christian families or Christian singles, listen to what people in different contexts are saying. Everything you hear may not apply to your audience, but let your listening reflect the widest part of the funnel at first. If you see lots of information in the secular press about how people are having difficulty finding affordable apartments, reflect on what this might mean for people in your audience.
Part of listening widely to diverse sources includes listening to people you don’t necessarily agree with. While articles that end up in your magazine or on your website should always reflect the values of your organization, you can learn about current challenges in culture by listening to people who don’t necessarily share these values. Consider what worldview is behind their thoughts or actions. How might your magazine help your readers see people who hold this worldview as Jesus sees them?
Listen to the Holy Spirit
The process of putting together a magazine can seem like a long list of tasks. From gathering lots of ideas, to focusing the content, to editing excellent articles, and finding great images—it’s a lot of work to create a magazine. But as a Christian magazine publisher, editor, or designer, you have help! You have the Holy Spirit guiding you.
Ask God to help you to listen, so that you will see new ideas. Ask God to put the right people in your path, so you can learn from their stories. Ask God to for extra insight as you go about your everyday life, so you will be aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
The most important issue for a new or existing magazine (or newsletter, website, blog) is to clarify your target audience.
A new magazine needs to carefully define who they are serving with their publication. Saying that your magazine is for “everyone,” or “all Christians” is not an adequate response. Such a broad audience focus will make it difficult for you to evaluate whether particular content will meet the needs of your audience. It also makes it hard to find your readership, as you will need to share about your magazine with everyone or all the Christians in your area in order to develop a following.
It is tempting to define an audience broadly because you don’t want to exclude potential readers. But a broad, general focus will not distinguish your magazine from among a rack full of magazines. Why would someone choose to read your magazine? What unique attributes can you offer through your magazine?
A well-defined target audience doesn’t exclude other readers, but it clearly invites in those who match most closely with your core readers. Someone outside your target audience may read your magazine and even become a regular subscriber, but that’s because they have found that your content is interesting.
For example, a magazine focused on people under 30 who are interested in spiritual conversation and open to Christianity will have a design style that resonates with people in that age category. It will include articles that invite people into considering ideas about faith and promote questions and exploration on topics relevant to people under 30. Having such a clearly targeted audience doesn’t mean that someone older will not pick up and read your magazine. But it does mean that every piece of your magazine package is focused on meeting the needs of that under-30, spiritually-interested reader.
A clear focus helps every design and content decision. As your graphic designer is working on layouts or your editorial team is planning content (or you, if you are wearing all these hats), all the design and editorial decisions will be filtered through a consideration of how your target audience will react to the content and design.
Audience definition goes beyond age, gender, and faith position. As you work to align your magazine strategy with the needs of your audience, it is helpful to create a few fictitious personas to whom you are targeting your content. These can be based on actual people you know who fit your desired audience, or they can be a compilation of attributes that you know are characteristic of people in this stage of life.
What about an existing magazine? When do you need to re-define your target audience?
Your magazine strategy can carry your magazine through many years. However, at least once a year, when you do your annual planning cycle, revisit your target audience statement and consider if it is time to adjust your focus. You may combine this evaluation with a reader survey every few years, or with periodic questions on social media to get feedback.
One of the hardest things about a magazine targeted as an age demographic, is that you need to keep adding readers at the younger end of your niche, so you don’t “age out” of your audience. If your readers are parents, then over time your current readers age out of your audience and have grown children. You probably don’t want to shift your focus to older adults, but you need to continually replenish your core audience, so you keep serving parents in each successive generation. However, since there are always new parents who seek guidance, your audience can be replenished, if you stay relevant to the current needs of parents.
Defining your core audience and keeping your magazine content and design focused on the needs of this audience is essential for a sustainable magazine.
By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial
Are you looking for a simple way to organize the progress of every article for an issue of your magazine? And, not only have it organized, but have it all in one place? You need a production chart. The purpose of the production chart is to provide an overview of where each article stands in the production process for an entire issue.