Spreading the word: Christian news for the masses

Special to Inside The Pew

Editor’s note: This is the first story that ran in the premiere online edition of Inside The Pew on March 3, 2009.

He wanted a means for Christians to effectively communicate with one another.

She had a desire to help future journalists hone their skills.

These two ideas serve as the backdrop in creating www.insidethepew.net. The Web site caters to the Christian communities of Southeast and North Texas, and South Louisiana.

Now in its third week of existence, the site is gaining in popularity. It has been featured in the following publications: The Port Arthur News, Hammond Daily Star, Baton Rouge Advocate, and Christian News Wire.

“I have encountered a lot of positive feedback on The Pew,” Tonya Whitaker, who serves as managing editor, said. “The churches have been helpful and more than willing to get us their news.”

The Pew all started one day with a phone conversation between Pastor Grelan Muse Sr., founder of Emanuel and The Mainline Ministries Inc., a registered nonprofit organization based in Baton Rouge, La., and Whitaker, a newspaper copy editor and writer.

“I told Tonya I always wanted to start a religion newspaper,” Muse said. “She said she had been thinking about beginning a newspaper to help train future journalists for quite a while. However, she told me that it would be a better idea to start a religion news Web site. I am glad she suggested this because with the Web, we can reach a greater number of people.

“I asked her how soon it would be to make this dream a reality. She said, ‘Sooner than you think.’”

After months of planning and both dodging hurricanes (Muse’s Baton Rouge was hit with Gustav, while Whitaker’s Port Arthur, Texas, was impacted by Ike), he appointed the 10-year newspaper journalist managing editor. She will oversee the content of the site, train interns and staff development.

“Tonya is intelligent, smart and her greatness is yet to come,” Muse said. “She has the ability and the skills for the job and to be a great leader.”

Whitaker got her first experience covering church-related news as a staff writer for The Orange Leader in August 2005. She had the opportunity to write stories on how churches in Orange helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees who came to the area fleeing the deadly storm.

“Faith-based news is usually relegated to one page on Saturday in newspapers,” Whitaker said. “I want to provide an avenue for churches and ministries to tell of the good deeds they do in His name. I want all types, shapes and forms of religion news covered.”

Whitaker said another portion of the Web site is to allow individuals who are not from the journalism field and have an interest in writing to volunteer. In addition, in the future, she wants to implement an internship for students who are journalism majors in college and high school students interested in pursuing it at the undergraduate level.

“I am excited to see my aspirations come to light,” she said. “I thank Pastor Muse for the opportunity.”

Individuals interested in lending their talents to writing and editing are encouraged to send a resume and writing samples to Whitaker at pewnews@aol.com. For more information on Emanuel and The Mainline Ministries, visit emmnetwork.org.

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