Published March 1, 2021
The Western Recorder that readers hold in their hands today will be a collector's item — the last one produced on a monthly basis — marking perhaps the most dramatic change in the publication's 195-year history.
To honor the Western Recorder's name and legacy, there will be one published each year that will serve as a book of reports for the November Annual Meeting. That magazine will provide a comprehensive look at how God is working through the lives of Kentucky Baptists and their churches. It will not be mailed, but distributed free at the Annual Meeting.
Since the January announcement that monthly issues would cease, we've fielded calls, texts and emails from people saying that although they understand the reasoning, they will miss receiving the magazine in their mailbox each month. With those contacts have come a flood of memories about the Western Recorder.
I was a faithful reader of the Western Recorder for four decades as a newspaper publisher in Princeton and a member of Southside Baptist Church. There were times the Western Recorder inspired me and times it infuriated me. I do recall writing one letter to the editor, perhaps in the early 2000s, where I took the paper to task for one of its editorials.
Then in 2006, I had the privilege of being named to the WR board of trustees, the first of several three-year terms on that board.
In 2008, I was asked to submit a guest editorial on the importance of the Western Recorder to Kentucky Baptists. I pointed out that the Western Recorder provided news coverage different from any other publication, and its unique content was worthy of readership support. That article ended with this statement, "It would indeed be a shame if the Western Recorder's voice ever passed from the scene."
Much has changed in the 13 years since that article appeared. Evidence of that is the decision by the WR to move from printing every week to every other week in 2015. Then two years ago this month, the newspaper tabloid was dropped in favor of a glossy monthly magazine. Also at that time, the WR board of trustees was dissolved as the publication moved from an independent status to become part of the KBC Communications Department. During that process, then-editor Todd Deaton announced his resignation in late January, 2019. In mid-February, I received a call inquiring about my interest in that position, which led to my wife and me leaving our home of 43 years and moving to Louisville.
We never planned on leaving Princeton — definitely didn't plan on moving to Louisville. But the Lord moved on both our hearts so we gladly said, "Yes, Lord." What a great two years it has been in so many ways.
I've said on several occasions that this work has put me in the best collaborative environment one could ask for. Brandon Porter, Robin Cornetet, Meri Beth Arbogast and Marina Shelton are valued co-workers — they are all multi-talented and extremely gifted — and their involvement in the Western Recorder has been invaluable.
Being in this role has resulted in the Lord directing my path to get to know many faithful servants of the Lord. I could not begin to name all those who have been a blessing in this journey. Those relationships have resulted in captivating stories of how God is working in the lives of Kentucky Baptists and their churches.
One question naturally follows: what about those writers and features you have enjoyed in the Western Recorder.
Will those continue anywhere else?
Kentucky Today (KT), the online news website operated by the KBC, will be enhanced in the days ahead.
For instance, Ben Stratton's riveting articles on Baptist history in Kentucky will continue with a new article each month. The same is true for KBC staff members who are regular contributors. Also, agencies and institutions (WMU, Sunrise, Crossings, Oneida, Clear Creek and Kentucky Baptist Foundation) have been asked to continue writing monthly articles.
The adage "names make news" will be evident on KT — keeping the "Mountains to the Mississippi" label you have come to know from the Recorder.
KT includes classified ads under the heading of "Marketplace." KT readers can look for church-related listings under that tab on the website.
In addition to WR regular contributors writing articles on Kentucky Today, I will also be contributing stories in addition to helping with other KBC endeavors.
The Western Recorder website will remain active for the foreseeable future so people can access its archives.
If you are not familiar with Kentucky Today, I encourage you to go to www.kentuckytoday.com. It is easily accessible on your computer or smartphone. You can sign up (free) for the Morning Briefing by going to https://www.kentuckytoday.com/morning-briefing-signup/.
We're optimistic that this transition to KT will help Kentucky Baptists stay informed about the work God is doing in Kentucky. We hope you'll read Kentucky Today as part of your daily routine.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, a Kentucky Baptist Convention publication. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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