The Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP) traces its beginnings to November 21, 1895. That is the day in Atlanta, Georgia, when 10 Baptist state paper editors met with a small group of representatives from publications related to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to form the Southern Baptist Press Association.
Records note numerous changes through the years including membership requirements, structure and even a name change to reflect its membership more accurately. Today, ASBP largely remains what the original founders had in mind. It is the organization serving the primary news publications of state Baptist conventions related to the SBC.
Through all the changes, many of the original purposes remain the same.
E.E. Folk of Tennessee, who played a key role in convening the organizational meeting, wrote the new press association would “promote a greater spirit of fraternity among the editors … and so will be in the direction of building up our common Zion.” Providing fellowship and mutual support for the men and women involved in keeping readers informed about what God is doing through Baptists around the world remains an important function.
In addition, ASBP reminds Baptists of the important role state Baptist publications play in helping Baptists work together by providing trusted sources for news, features, promotion, analysis, opinion, instruction and more.
Membership in ASBP is by publications. That precedent was set in the 1895 organizational meeting when founders insisted that every facet of a publication’s ministry would be served by the new organization. Although some voices argued for an organization just for the editors, founders decided advertising, circulation promotion, administration and management, news writing, editorials, photography and more would all be topics for the new venture.
At the 1898 meeting, members discussed “Agents verses Premiums” and “Cash Basis and Delinquent Accounts.” Today members face different kinds of problems, but ASBP still provides a first stop to find direction and help about issues such as feedback about the latest software, about news gathering tools and an array of other issues. Problem-solving remains an important contribution of ASBP.
Journalism training is a special priority. Through the years the association has sponsored professional evaluations of member publications. Industry training conferences related to photography, writing, editing, technology and other topics have been a part of the on-going resources provided by ASBP. So has a parade of journalism professionals working with members. Always the goal was the same as today — help state Baptist publications provide readers with the best Christian journalism possible.
Through ASBP, member publications have worked together with other Christian groups on common concerns. For example, ASBP works cooperatively with Associated Church Press and Evangelical Press Association to represent common concerns about postal rates and regulations with senior management of the U.S. Postal Service. ASBP has also worked cooperatively with other Christian groups on issues such as religious liberty and church-state separation.
An important contribution of ASBP is contending for the right of Baptists to free and unfettered information about the work they help support in their state, across the United States and around the world.
During its first 80 years of existence, the association worked with the SBC to include a report about the work and importance of state Baptist papers at each SBC annual meeting. More recently ASBP worked directly with each SBC national entity promoting open meeting and transparent reporting. At times association members worked side by side with entity communicators to provide readers with timely, accurate and balanced reporting.
The association continues to work with the SBC Executive Committee and local state conventions to promote professional journalism standards so readers have credible and dependable sources for news and information about their denomination.
While some member publications have chosen to have a high public profile within their state convention and the SBC than others, ASBP is not and has never been a political pressure group. Instead it has been a forum for a variety of opinions. Hopefully, the discussions results in better understanding for all members. At times ASBP speaks to issues through resolutions adopted by members.
ASBP holds its annual meeting in February, a practice dating back to 1926. In addition, members schedule a fellowship meeting in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting.
Work of the association is coordinated by Margaret Dempsey Colson who serves as ASBP executive secretary. All other officers are elected annually.
—Dr. Bobby S. “Bob” Terry
Editor-emeritus of The Alabama Baptist
Served as ASBP executive secretary for 25 years (1993–2018)