Publisher, in interview, tells state of The Journal

By Ellis Stewart

BIG SANDY, Texas - The Journal is working on its ninth monthly issue since its beginning in February of this year. Publisher Dixon Cartwright was interviewed in the office in his home where he writes and edits Journal articles and uses a Macintosh computer to lay out the newspaper for printing 10 miles away in Gladewater.

Mr. Cartwright answered questions about The Journal, its history and what he sees as its future. His answers appear after the questions in bold type.

  • Who produces The Journal? How many people are on the payroll?

We don't have a payroll. We have many people who help us produce The Journal. Many of our readers send us articles and letters from many states and countries.

On our immediate staff in Big Sandy, we have helping us people like Mac Overton, you [Ellis Stewart], Dave Havir and others, not to mention my family, which helps with circulation and mailing and maintenance of our Web site and moral support.

Mac is the only one we pay anything to, because he does help out quite a bit with each issue, and we try to help with his expenses.

  • How is The Journal financed?

Mainly it is financed by subscription fees. If people want to subscribe to The Journal, we charge them a basic rate of $18 for 12 monthly issues. We also will sell six-month and 24-month subscriptions. The best deal is 24 months for $32.

Also, we have stated in some of our offers that we will provide free subscriptions to people if they write us to request a free subscription and verify that they cannot afford to pay for it. We're able to do this because many of our subscribers have voluntarily paid an extra amount for the subscriptions of others. There have been quite a few donors to The Journal, most of them relatively small amounts.

  • Is The Journal self-supporting?

It can be self-supporting, and that's our goal. But for it to be self-supporting we would need more subscribers than we have now. As of this writing, we have 3,100 subscribers. We are gaining, more or less by word of mouth, between 100 and 200 subscribers a month. We have about 2,600 in the United States and the rest in other countries.

Unfortunately, the copies sent outside of this country are expensive, and I assume they always will be. We are happy to send them abroad, but we count on American subscribers to help pay for sending The Journal elsewhere around the world.

We are grateful for our distributors, Barbara Fenney in Europe, Craig White, Wade Cox and Chris Waterman in Australia, Bruce Porteous in New Zealand and Geoff Neilson in South Africa, as well as Gary Hegar, who lives down the street from us and provides us the benefit of his mailing service at a very fair price. We ship The Journal in bulk to our overseas representatives, then they distribute them in their areas, usually by mail to lists they maintain.

Of course, you're a Journal distributor as well. [The interviewer, Ellis Stewart, stocks current and back issues of The Journal in his place of business in Big Sandy, Stewart Printing.]

  • How many countries outside the United States do you send to?

I could look on our subscription database and find some of them, then I would need to check with our overseas distributors in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to see where they go from those points, but I know that, besides America, they go to Canada, Mexico, several countries in South and Central America, several European countries, including Britain, Spain, France, Norway, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Scandinavia, then Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Fiji, several to Mauritius, countries in Africa including Nigeria and Ghana, and Singapore. Some of these receive only one subscription, one copy per month, but they go all over the globe.

  • Could you say again why you started The Journal?

My family and I started The Journal because In Transition shut down. I felt so strongly that we shouldn't shut it down that I was willing to take the drastic step of starting up another publication.

I tried to work out an arrangement with In Transition, to continue it, but I was not able to make such an arrangement. The best I could do was start up something new that wasn't In Transition but was somewhat similar. There are similarities and differences between The Journal and In Transition.

I felt we should start this newspaper because the situation of not having a news publication that crosses the artificial boundaries set up by some of the brethren in the Churches of God is not a good situation. There is a dire need for communication to help bring about understanding in the Churches of God. There are several-many-good publications out there that are produced by many of the groups and individuals, yet they are not church newspapers in the same way we try to be.

I should mention some publications that do cross the boundaries, such as Servants' News. But, of course, we are not Servants' News, and Servants' News is not us in that we are a newspaper.

Our staff's talents lie in the newspaper business, journalism. One way we can help out is to provide a more or less open forum for many of the brethren of the Churches of God.

There are some open forums; for example, on the Internet. But many people are not hooked up to the Internet. Many of us are more comfortable with the traditional look and feel of a newspaper.

  • If subscribers to In Transition had issues remaining in their subscriptions, did they automatically carry over as Journal subscriptions?

No, In Transition and The Journal are entirely separate: different mailing lists, separate subscription records. An In Transition subscription has nothing to do with a subscription to The Journal. In Transition still has back issues available, by the way.

  • What's the address for ordering them?

In Transition's address is P.O. Box 450, Monroe, Ind. 46772.

  • What's The Journal's address?

The Journal is at P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755. Our E-mail address is, and we're on the Web .

  • What is your philosophy?

What do you mean, exactly?

  • Your paper is not just an open forum for everybody to air their beliefs, is it? Your philosophy is to stick with-what-Sabbath-keepers, basically?

That's a good question. People have sent us letters asking about a perceived bias in The Journal. And some people believe an open forum cannot legitimately have a bias.

However, I have never denied having a bias at The Journal. The Journal has a particular slant on the news. Our bias in favor of God's law under the New Covenant as written in our minds and on our hearts including the Sabbath command as the requirement to remember and keep holy the seventh day.

This may be off the subject a little, but I do not enjoy being accused of being an Old Covenant Christian, as if such a thing could exist. I believe in God's law under the New Covenant, written on our hearts. I believe that part of God's law, written on our hearts, is the Sabbath Commandment.

So, when choosing which articles and editorials to run, which stories to emphasize, I have a natural bias in favor of people who agree with me on that.

On the other hand, you may notice there is a wide range of people in the Churches of God who believe what I just said. But they differ on many things, including the calendar, when to observe and why to observe or even if we should observe certain festivals, the nature of Christ, even exactly when the Sabbath day begins and ends, whether to use what some people call the sacred names for God or not and on and on.

There are many beliefs or tenets that in the past we've considered the trunk of the tree, but I don't really believe in the long term they are trunk of the tree. I believe many of them are important, but if I'm trying to determine a litmus test for what I'll run in The Journal, as Brian Knowles mentioned a couple of issues ago, it would be belief in God's law under the New Covenant as written on our hearts, and that, of course, includes the Sabbath day as the belief that we should keep holy a particular day.

Beyond that, we allow a latitude.

Now, the letters-from-our-readers section goes a little beyond what I just said. For example, two issues ago we ran two letters about Easter. One, a fairly long one, gave a coherent argument in favor of Easter observance, the other gave a succinct sentiment entirely against Easter observance.

I do not observe Easter and don't agree that it should be observed, yet we will allow such letters in the letters section. I do not see us, however, ever running an article promoting Easter.

  • Why did you run that letter if you believe that Easter is pagan?

Because, for one thing, I think people need to be able to see their beliefs challenged and defend them. You wait. There will be people in the next few issues who write in with coherent arguments against Easter observance.

I think this kind of thing is good for us in making sure we know what we're talking about when we say we believe something. Also, I do not want to disparage the writer who wrote in support of Easter. I appreciate his taking the time to set down his thoughts on paper or computer screen. I don't have to agree with a letter or article to welcome its publication in our newspaper.

I'll make this as a related comment, not specifically about Easter. But there are other tenets, some things I'll call peripheral, that we hold dear that may come up in the letters or essays and be discussed pro and con. Who knows but maybe we'll find out, through these discussions in print, that we were wrong historically on something? If we were wrong, we need to know that we were wrong.

How can we find out one way or the other? By discussing the Scriptures and their implications with our brethren.

How can we hold these discussions? It's been difficult in the past. In the past we have seen our brethren disfellowshipped for having discussions-not always, but sometimes. But we can have civil discussions, even about topics that make us uncomfortable. I think it's all a process of coming more fully into a knowledge of the truth of Scripture.

  • When The Journal writes about problems in one of the groups, such as the splits in Waco or in this issue Kansas City, don't people sometimes say you're being negative or provoking a problem?

When there is a protracted problem-for instance, there are quite a few people leaving as individuals and even smaller groups and in some cases whole congregations in the United Church of God-we try to cover the situations as we have resources to do so or as people send us certain information.

We've covered church crises in Melbourne, Nashville, Minneapolis, also difficulties in the Global Church of God and the Church of God International. We've seen splits splitting off from splits.

Splits are certainly part of the news, yet there are people who believe we would be better off not covering such items, because they believe they're not edifying to the brethren, that we should all think the best, we should hope for and believe the best about people, and we shouldn't talk about difficulties.

  • So why do you talk about and report on difficulties?

Part of the answer goes back to what we call our former association so we don't have to say Worldwide Church of God. If you'll remember, and this is at least from my perspective, much of the difficulty we had was from believing only the best in every case. We later found that the best just wasn't happening in many cases. If somehow we could have known about certain situations in the past, then surely we could have avoided some of the problems we had in the early '90s and at many other times in our history.

This is a long way of saying that I believe we should be willing to report on and examine our problems as well as our victories, our good news. It's unfortunate that sometimes good news isn't always reported, and it's a fact that bad news generates more mail to us in the form of tips and articles and letters than does good news.

But it's also a fact that we cannot afford to ignore the bad news.

We do try to be fair and accurate, even though, as I said, The Journal has an admitted editorial slant. Even though we admit to a journalistic bias, which every newspaper in a society with a free press has if it would admit it, we strive for fairness and accuracy. We try to allow people on multiple sides of a question or situation to have their say. If we slight someone in a report, it's not intentional, and we do try to make up for it by encouraging people to write us letters, which we will publish to set the record straight.

One reason for the perceived impression that a publication like The Journal is a negative newspaper is that we as members of the Churches of God are accustomed to reading public-relations publications that report only happy news. When we come across a publication that seeks to print more than one headquarters-oriented side to a breaking story, naturally you're going to notice the negative side.

The negative will stick out at you like a sore thumb if you've never been able even to be aware of a negative side before. Even when there surely were negative sides to many stories, they were spiked; they were simply ignored. Many times they were ignored because of good intentions, because we all want to believe the best about people; we want to look on the bright side.

Just today one of my news sources for an article related to me that he had examined The Journal and decided that we were trying to be fair and accurate, and he didn't deny that we were. Even so, he said, The Journal is exacerbating the problem in the churches; it's stirring people up; it's causing division.

My response to this gentleman was that people cannot make informed decisions about their church or about a church they are thinking about affiliating with if they do not know what's happening in that church or group.

In this case, the man is a member of the United Church of God, so I noted that people like Dennis Luker and Robert Dick in the spring of 1995 in Indianapolis expressed some noteworthy sentiments at the time of the startup of United.

People have different memories of Indianapolis, especially regarding the question of local boards and church government. But surely everyone who was at Indianapolis remembers Dennis Luker calling for the founders of a new church not to be afraid to shed the cold light of day on all the goings on of the new church they were forming. I remember his resolve to make sure that the elders of United and all the other members would know what was taking place, that there would be nothing happening behind closed doors, that things would not be done in secret in United, that United would be, in his and others' words, transparent.

That's what I remember him and others saying, and it sounded good to me. Whether you heard or remember those words or not, whether you're in United or in a living-room group, you've got to agree with those statements. There should be no place for the smoke-filled back room in United, especially after what the organizers said and heard said at Indianapolis.

Of course, there are positive, happy stories among the brethren of United, as there are among all of the groups. We report on good news when we hear about it, when people send it to us and when we are able to cover it ourselves, with our resources.

But in this time of transition-and surely the people of the Churches of God will always be in transition-how can we ignore the significant things that happen?

  • I know you and Mac Overton and others spend a lot of time rewriting, editing and preparing articles for The Journal. Are there any ways to help with some of that work? Are there ways that writers who send in the stories could prepare them so not as much work would need to go into getting them reading for publication?

We need to come up with writer's guidelines for The Journal and send them out on request to people who might want to submit articles to us.

But, until then, I consider it quite helpful if a writer includes his phone number and, if he's got one, his E-mail address and certainly his regular mailing address.

Also, it's helpful if he includes this information on the first page of the article, not just in a cover letter. This sounds like a little thing, but it's helpful if we have to contact the writer with some question, and many times we do have to do that.

Also, if an article is an essay or editorial or other opinion-type article, it needs an editor's note identifying who the writer is. Sometimes I've had trouble convincing writers to include that type of material because they'll say things like "I'm not interested in talking about myself."

But the reader is interested in knowing who's preaching at him or who's offering his opinion. Who does this guy think he is, anyway? Well, we need to see just who this guy thinks he is by including some biographical information in a short editor's note before the article.

Another suggestion for writers: New writers tend not to include direct quotations from the people they're writing about. An article is greatly benefited by the inclusion of direct quotes.

  • Getting back to the economics of the paper, you said it could be self-supporting if the circulation were large enough. Have you thought of ways to increase the circulation?

The Journal's circulation is slowly increasing, thanks to word of mouth. Unfortunately, we have extremely few outside lists that we can market to, because no list brokers are going to have lists of members of Sabbatarian Churches of God.

We rely on encouraging people who already subscribe to renew their subscriptions, although most have not subscribed long enough yet for it to be time for them to renew.

We also rely heavily on gift subscriptions. As one letter writer, Dan White, said in the July issue, if everyone would buy a gift subscription, we could double our mailing list overnight. That would be nice.

A few people have taken it on themselves to promote The Journal, for which we are thankful. One couple on the West Coast makes copies of our front pages and subscription coupons and sends them to people. A lady in British Columbia buys extra issues to mail to her friends, encouraging them to subscribe.

We've had elders in independent churches and the larger organizations order bulk copies from us, up to 400 at a time, and give them out to their members at services and at Friends of the Sabbath conferences.

We have elders in churches who from their pulpits encourage people to subscribe, even though of course we also know that some elders actively discourage their members from subscribing.

The positive efforts are much appreciated. We know, from our letters and people we meet face to face, that there is a prevalent feeling that something like The Journal should exist and should continue to exist, and that is what we're committed to seeing happen.

We have been gratified that, even in just the past several weeks and much to our surprise, some people have sent us what I consider several sizable donations, from $100 to $500, to help us print and pay the postage for mailing The Journal.

  • Are such deductions to The Journal tax-deductible?

Well, no, although there is a way. Richard Nickels, who founded and operates the Giving & Sharing organization up in Wyoming, will furnish a receipt for a tax-deductible donation if it is made out to Giving & Sharing but restricted, in writing on the check, to producing The Journal.

The IRS will allow a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization like Giving & Sharing to direct donations to other organizations even if those are not nonprofits themselves as long as the first organization, in this case Giving & Sharing, controls where the money goes and can prove where it goes. It has to be able to show that it was spent to pay for activities that are in line with its goals and objectives.

So Giving & Sharing, at 3316 Alberta Dr., Gillette, Wyo. 82718, controls the money it receives to help produce The Journal by depositing the funds in its own account and directly paying printing and postage bills for us. It's not our money; we have no control over it; but it helps pay for our two greatest expenses: printing and postage.

This is something Richard offered to do for which we're thankful. It's a helpful service for us.

[Editor's note: The address of Giving & Sharing in the print version of The Journal contained an incorrect post-office-box number and zip code. The address above is correct.]

  • What is your background in the newspaper business?

I worked on the staff of The Worldwide News, published by the Worldwide Church of God, for its original five years, 1973 to 1978, before Mr. Armstrong shut it down. Of course, he later started it back up.

My wife and I founded and operated a typesetting and graphic-arts business in East Texas for about 13 years; we published the local weekly newspaper for three years in the 1980s; I taught journalism and computer courses at Ambassador College and University for four years all together; I have a master's in journalism from a university that was recently renamed Texas A&M­Commerce, so now I'm an Aggie.

I do not make a living with The Journal. I am a self-employed editor and writer, and I design and set up materials to be printed and published. I work on contract as a copy editor for The Good News, the magazine published by the United Church of God. I work closely with Scott Ashley in Denver and Shaun Venish in Indiana and other editors and writers in producing that.

I have a few other accounts in this part of Texas. I do some setup and prepress work for printers and small publishers. My background is in typesetting, editing, writing, printing and publishing.

  • What about your family?

I grew up in Oklahoma the oldest of eight kids. I married the former Linda Kay Isom back in 1970 while Linda was still a senior at AC, although I had graduated in 1969. We have a son, Trey, 17, and a daughter, Jamie, 13. I'm from Kellyville, Okla., and Linda's from Clinton, Ark. Our kids are native Texans.

My sister Pat is married to a man who served in the WCG ministry for years before his termination: Joe Dobson of Kansas City. I have a brother and sister-in-law who are among the brethren in San Antonio: Wayne and Tommi Cartwright.

I just want to say, in wrapping this up, that I appreciate the chance to work on something as worthwhile as The Journal. I certainly and especially appreciate our subscribers. Mac Overton, one of our writers, puts it well when he says it's a labor of love.

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