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195 years of serving Kentucky Baptists

A history of the Western Recorder

 

Western Recorder started December 1825 by George Waller and Spencer Clark under the name The Baptist Register. It was semi-monthly and "proposed to endeavor to strip religion of everything like the traditions of men, and to present the truth in a plain and simple matter," wrote W.D. Nowlin, who cited J.H. Spencer as his reference. That year forms the basis for the Western Recorder's legacy of 195 years of service to Kentucky Baptists.

The name of the paper was soon changed to The Baptist Recorder, although no date was cited for when that occurred.

About four years later, it was succeeded by the Baptist Herald, later called the Baptist Chronicle. Little is known about the Chronicle until 1834, when records show a Baptist paper called the Baptist Banner was being published in Shelbyville.

In 1839, two newspapers published out of state — The Baptist in Nashville, Tenn., and the Western Pioneer, published in Alton, Ill., merged with the Baptist Banner and the entire operation was moved to Louisville.

After the consolidation of the three papers, the new paper became known as the Baptist Banner and Western Pioneer and was the "denominational organ of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri Baptists. Circulation of 27,500 and advertising income of $15,000 a month."

The newspaper's name reverted to the Baptist Banner masthead in January, 1848. But in December, 1850, the name was changed to its present title of Western Recorder. In 1854 the newspaper's office was moved to Walnut Street Baptist Church.

Soon the Civil War gripped America, resulting in the Western Recorder suspending publication on two occasions — once for four months and then for 15 months.

In 1871, two men served as editors — A.S. Worrall and A.C. Caperton. That was the result of Worrell buying the paper and then selling half interest in it to Caperton. In 1887, Caperton sold his interest and T.T. Eaton became editor — a position he held until his death in 1907. After C.M. Thompson served a two-year stint as editor, J.W. Porter filled that position from 1909-1921. Stability of the paper continued with a long tenure from Victor L. Masters, who was listed as editor from 1921-42.

In 1919 at a meeting of the State Board of Missions, it voted to purchase the Western Recorder. At that time there were four publications serving Baptists in the state. Under an agreement, previous publishers Baptist Book Concern and Baptist World Publishing Co. agreed not to own or publish a paper as long as the Western Recorder was published.

"Let it be once and forever understood that this paper is now owned and controlled by Kentucky Baptists and within the limits of good religious journalism its columns are wide open to every reputable Baptists who has … a message for our people. Its policy shall be to stand for constructive orthodoxy and every Baptist interest shall have fair treatment and a square deal," stated the announcement regarding the purchase.

Kentucky Baptist churches were asked to help meet the "heavy financial obligations" regarding the purchase. "Welled with pastors and churches to go to work at once to increase our (subscriber) list. We ought to have 25,000 new subscribers in September."

A seven-member board of managers (trustees) was elected to oversee the publication. A significant event occurred in Kentucky Baptist history when the General Association of Baptists changed its name to Kentucky Baptist Convention in 1961.

Four years before that occurred, Chauncey Daley was named editor and became the longest tenured editor, serving in that role for 27 years. In 1957, the Western Recorder was housed in the Kentucky Baptist Building in Middletown and had its own print shop until 20 years later, when Landmark Community newspapers in Shelbyville became the printer, converting the Recorder's format to a tabloid newspaper.

Jack Sanford served as editor from 1984-89, and was succeeded by Marv Knox, editor from 1990-1995. Mark Wingfield was named to the post in 1996, serving only two years. In 1999, Trennis Henderson moved into the editor's role, serving for nine years. He was succeeded by Todd Deaton in 2009, and he served through February 2019.

The preceding month marked a dramatic shift for the Western Recorder. Its board of trustees, following 10 months of studying the viability of the newspaper as an independent agency of KBC, voted unanimously to move under the umbrella of the KBC Communications Department, effective March 1, 2019.

Deaton was offered a position under the new alignment, but resigned to return to his home state of South Carolina, becoming managing editor of that state's Baptist publication.

KBC approached Chip Hutcheson, who retired from the newspaper business in 2017, and inquired about his interest in helping change the tabloid newspaper to a monthly magazine. He accepted the position effective March 1, 2019, and has been interim managing editor since that time.

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