A Real Resolution

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions. Invariably, the Bally membership goes unused, coffee becomes a daily habit again and the pre-bedtime routine drifts back to watching Seinfeld instead of reading two books a week.

That’s why I hesitate to ever write about change in January. People could easily dismiss it as another cliché seasonal challenge, when we all know lasting change isn’t prompted because we overindulged during the holidays.

Ironically, though, change is an unintentional theme in the new issue of RELEVANT. From the cover story, where Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett talks about how his faith (and struggles) prompted him to change his life and music, to changing how we view heaven, to changing our perception of what life in a Nairobi slum is really like, or even changing our approach and expectations toward relationships, the following pages are connected by a thread I can honestly say we didn’t plan.

Subtle surprises like that happen all the time as our team works to put an issue together. As we chase the ideas we get excited about, that challenge us and we think need to be told, we see an issue take shape. We move stories that would be better in the next issue and go after last-minute ideas, even if it means some late nights. Our crew is passionate and committed to putting together the best magazine we can, and what you get in your mailbox every other month is the result.

That’s how all magazines are done, right? Sadly, it’s an approach that’s becoming rare.

Imagine you pick up a magazine and, as you flip through it, you see there are three ads in the issue that relate to the cover story in some way. What would you think?

Few readers realize it, but it’s becoming fairly common practice for editorial coverage in magazines—including cover stories—to be influenced or even bought by advertisers. That wouldn’t be surprising in certain industries, but when I heard about some Christian magazines adopting the practice, it struck me as odd.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with advertising. It’s what makes this magazine, and all media, possible, and at its best lets readers know about products and events that could enhance their lives. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good ad campaign, like the bizarre Old Spice commercials.

But there’s a difference between an ad and the editorial content for which people buy the magazine. There’s an issue of trust at stake, and it’s a dangerous road to head down if the articles in a magazine are simply available to the highest bidder. To sell a magazine filled with articles that were “bought,” yet present them as though they weren’t, seems dishonest to me

In our magazine, we cover what we feel strongly about. Our passions—and the passions of our readers—drive the decisions we make. There’s no confusion between what content we’re producing and what pages are paid messages. Since our first issue, we’ve made it a point to not allow advertising to influence our editorial decisions. We’re not for sale. We feel the short-term financial gain of compromise is not worth the long-term cost.

Integrity has a price. In a questionable economy, I can understand the appeal of guaranteed advertising dollars, even if it means losing editorial integrity. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth it. Integrity is built over years, but lost in an instant.

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Having integrity is more important in daily decisions than in public declarations. Everything we do needs to be weighed against our standards, morals and faith. One compromise, and thousands of previous integrous decisions can be wiped out.

This isn’t just about media selling out. This is a wake-up in other areas as well. Are we going to be content going with the flow and letting our standards erode little by little? Or are we going to say enough is enough, and stand for what’s right?

I believe our generation will be the one to buck business as usual. We’re going to be the ones to chart a new course and say, “If we can’t do something the right way, it’s not worth doing at all.”

I believe compromise will fail, and those who choose integrity will be the ones left standing.

The subtle theme of change that appears throughout this January issue may not have been planned, but it is probably here for a reason. It’s the time of year for us to pause, see things how they are, envision how they could be and pursue making a difference with reckless abandon. We need to do what’s right, as best we can, every day, especially when other people don’t know. That’s called integrity. And having it sounds like a great New Year’s resolution.

Cameron Strang is the founder and CEO of RELEVANT. He’s a lover, not a fighter. You can connect with him daily via Twitter (@cameronstrang) or less often at Facebook.com/cameronstrang. This article appears in the brand new issue of RELEVANT. If you don’t subscribe but want more stuff like this, you can subscribe here

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