Jennifer Davis Rash, who is slated to become the first female editor of The Alabama Baptist, the third largest newspaper in the state, told Alabama Media Professionals her challenge will be keeping the publication relevant.
During AMP’s monthly meeting on May 10, Rash said she’s standing on the shoulders of the many editors who have come before her since The Alabama Baptist was founded in 1843 and, although she looks different, her task is the same. “I’m sure what was relevant in 1843 wouldn’t have been considered cutting edge decades later,” she said, pointing out a photo of the first edition of the paper, its front page solid text.
Rash, who is set to become editor and president in January and has worked for The Alabama Baptist since 1996, acknowledged reaching her goal – moving the weekly, print publication into the digital age without alienating longtime readers – will be difficult. While The Alabama Baptist won 14 national awards in 2017, its average reader is older than 55 and the paper’s design hasn’t changed much in two decades.
“It works for our loyal subscribers, but this great content is not being seen by so many,” she said. “How do we keep producing content at the same level and serve this content up for a new world? We don’t just want to sell paper. We want to make a difference.”
Rash’s plan is to maintain the print product, slowly evolving its look, and to expand offerings by adding digital platforms and amping up Web-based content. She said that despite the declining print market, The Alabama Baptist and other niche publications have an advantage over general-news outlets. In response to a Twitter poll asking people what they would choose if they had to get all their news from one place, a general news source or a niche publication, most comments ran in a similar vein, she said. Many people said there’s so much information available now, they have to find one content provider they trust, one they feel matches them, Rash said.
To learn more about Rash’s strategy for the future of The Alabama Baptist, including staffing plans and ways freelancers could fit into the picture, join AMP today and begin receiving our members-only e-mail newsletter.
Our next meeting will be June 14. Sign up at the bottom of this page to receive the evite invitation.