Newspapers and Religion: If Jesus Christ Were an Editor Part 5 Conclusion

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

When the experiment ended, and editor Hudson once again took over the reins, the final verdict remained unresolved. Critics in the newspaper world decided that the paper-edited-according-to-Christ had been too watered-down, too dull, and they suggested that the fantastic rise in circulation was merely a fluke resulting from novelty plus clever publicity. Typical of the criticisms was the one that appeared in The New York Herald: "A careful survey of the 1st page of the Capital's 1st issue under Sheldon shows an entire absence of important news of the day. Not a line about a bubonic plague at San Francisco, the dreadful tenement house fire at Newark, N.J., the wounding of 8 American soldiers in the Philippines, the advance of [General] Roberts on the Orange Free State, the death of the Italian boxer Guydo, who died as a result of a blow struck by James Jeffries in a fistic contest. None of these important news items of the day appear....

"The most prominent item on the 1st page is signed by Mr. Sheldon himself and refers to the Famine in India. Another article on the 1st page refers to consumptives who flock to Colorado.... Another article prominent on the 1st page is a communication from Rochester, N.Y., signed by the founder of the 'Prohibition Union of Christian Men'. This article closes with the remarkable sentence, 'In the Name of Jesus Christ, the Carpenter, the liquor traffic ought to die.'"

On the other hand, there were those who contended that Sheldon had, indeed, published a new kind of newspaper which had sold because readers enjoyed seeing good news receive the same emphasis as the sordid. For this reason, they had bought copies of Sheldon's paper enthusiastically the entire week. As Dr. Sheldon concluded to one critic, "If my paper was dull, or stupid, or lacking in what the newspapermen call 'news,' it was, at least, perfectly 'clean' from Tuesday morning till Saturday night. So far as I could make it the paper had not one line in it that could not be read aloud in the family circle, or in a church prayer meeting."

Satisfied that his experiment, by his own standards, had been a success, Dr. Sheldon returned to his pulpit. He served as minister in his Topeka church, off and on, for 35 years.

However, he remained bitten by the journalistic bug, and, finally, he left his pulpit and parish to become a newsman once more. In 1920, when he was 63, he moved to New York to become editor in chief of the Christian Herald for 4 years. After returning to Topeka, he continued working for the Herald as a contributing editor. During his lifetime, he produced 35 published books. In 1946, he died in Topeka at the age of 89.

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