THE CITY OF OKLAHOMA – The old brick building on the edge of the Oklahoma Christian University campus is easy to overlook. The area is home to a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop. A small sign above one of the doors lists the offices inside: The Christian Chronicle.
Behind the door of the humble office, eight employees produce the the Chronicle, an international monthly newspaper for the Churches of Christ with a circulation of 133,000 copies. Awards line the walls of the offices. Staff, all Oklahoma Christian employees and all members of the Churches of Christ, describe their work as a mission, a ministry and a calling.
“My initial thought was: ‘What if I want to come back in real journalism? Will they even let me in? ‘ “
Still, Erik Tryggestad had reservations when he applied for a job as a journalist at the newspaper in 2001.
“My initial thought was: ‘What if I want to come back in real journalism? Will they even let me in? ‘ Said Tryggestad. He covered cops and crime for the Morning news from the savannah in Georgia and interviewed with the the Chronicle in the hope of getting an offer, he could take advantage of a raise. Right after getting off the plane in Oklahoma City, he encountered the Chronic then editor, Bailey McBride.
“I said, ‘OK, whatever, new plan. I want this job, ”Tryggestad recalls.
He began to travel the world, reporting on the Churches of Christ in Latin America, Africa and Europe. Working alongside McBride and his colleagues Lindy Adams and Scott LaMascus, he has seen the daily newspaper industry shrink.
“That’s when I started to realize that this was really a job that I think God had brought me to,” said Tryggestad, now the Chronic President and CEO. “This is a ministry that I can participate in using the skills I have to do something that I love. “
Editor-in-chief Bobby Ross Jr. was also drawn to the opportunity to work in the ministry. He had worked as a religious writer for Oklahoman and as a reporter for the Associated Press before Lynn McMillon, former president of the the Chronicle, approached him in 2005 to work for the newspaper. Ross took a pay cut to join the association.
Tonya Patton, Director of Advertising, and Lynda Sheehan, Administrative Assistant, have both heard of the vacancies at the the Chronicle friends at church. Patton said she wasn’t sure what she had to offer at the the Chronicle. Previously a stay-at-home mom for 14 years with an accounting background, Patton said she learned that each staff member brings different skills to the ministry.
“We all adapt in a way that I think glorifies God,” Patton said. “I am not an editor. I am not a writer. I’m just someone who can handle a job.
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Report the good and the bad
Launched in 1943, the the Chronicle was founded to tell the stories of the Churches of Christ, to “stimulate zeal and missionary activity among Church members everywhere,” founder Olan Hicks wrote in the journal’s first issue, “and to give to all take a broad view of the opportunities and responsibilities of the church today.
It means pointing out the good and the bad, Tryggestad said. And this report is not always appreciated by Chronic audience, which now covers print, internet and social media. Coverage of racial tensions and their impact on churches, as well as news of ministers arrested for indecent acts, sometimes results in angry letters, emails and phone calls.
But hiding or ignoring such incidents is not the right way to deal with these issues, Ross said, adding that he was not worried about the negative publicity. “I think Jesus can handle his own public relations,” Ross said.
Tryggestad added, “The basis of being a follower of Christ requires the kind of objectivity, the kind of accuracy that journalists should aspire to. “
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