Newspapers and Religion: If Jesus Christ Were an Editor Part 4 Public Reaction

About Dr. Charles Sheldon, a clergyman who wrote the famous Christian book In His Steps and became editor for the Topeka Capital, mixing journalism and religion.

The Day Christ Edited a Newspaper

At 1st the Topeka Capital's hardened reporters squirmed. No smoking was permitted in the city room, no drinking--and no profanity. The business department screamed when Dr. Sheldon began to ban certain ads. "Black-listed by Mr. Sheldon," according to John W. Ripley in The Kansas Historical Quarterly, "were advertisements for tobacco in all forms, patent medicines (whose ads were then bread and butter to 90% of the nation's newspapers), electric belts, Keeley Cure for Drunkenness (to Sheldon alcohol was a sin rather than a disease), bargain sales (because Sheldon did not have time to verify values), corsets (unhealthy because of their restrictive properties), and illustrations of ladies' hosiery and underwear (suggestive). Also barred were ads for theatrical and sporting events. However, small town papers cheered one particular 'Thou shalt not.' A friend of the small shopkeeper, Sheldon refused to accept any advertising from the big department stores in nearby Kansas City." As a result of this policy, the Capital advertising department had to decline thousands of dollars in revenue.

But something else was happening. Just as the cynical staff finally got into the spirit of things, so did the general public. Readers were infected by the good fight. Circulation soared from its normal 11,223 to 362,684 copies sold daily by the end of 5 days. The Topeka presses, unable to handle the worldwide demand for copies, enlisted the presses of The Chicago Journal, the Staats Zeitung of New York, the Westminster Gazette of London for special editions in the U.S. and Great Britain.

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