journalist

Carroll grad’s unexpected path from church service to award-winning journalism

May 11, 2020
Eric Black

Eric Black, executive director, editor, and publisher of the Baptist Standard. Black is a B.H. Carroll Ph.D. graduate.

IRVING, Texas (May 11, 2020) — “This is not happening. I’m not going to do this,” Eric Black told his friends following his first job interview with the board of the Baptist Standard.

He had answered the interviewers’ questions, but he’d sensed no calling to become the executive director, editor, and publisher of the state’s oldest Baptist newspaper. His wife was also sure he wasn’t being called to the position.

“I was a pastor at the time and my aspiration was just to do what God led me to do—to continue serving as a pastor or a professor,” Black said. “There was no sense God was releasing me from that.”

But He was.

When Black told his references about the interview, saying he didn’t think it would go anywhere, most of them—to his surprise—said they thought he was wrong. Perhaps he ought to think about the idea, they said. By the time he was called back for a second interview with the board, he realized things had changed.

“I realized I couldn’t say ‘no’ anymore,” Black said.

Black, who completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, walked a circuitous path to the newspaper business. He completed a criminal justice degree at Hardin Simmons University and later enrolled in seminary.

At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he enrolled in the social work program. The program was soon cut from the curriculum. He then tried counseling, but it wasn’t a fit.

The fit came when he landed in the Christian education degree program and met Budd Smith, a mainstay in the School of Educational Ministries at Southwestern. Smith later left the seminary and went on to serve as one of the founding senior fellows at B.H. Carroll.

“I chose Carroll for the Ph.D. because of Budd Smith,” Black said. “The chance to study under him made the decision easy. I also was living in New Mexico at the time as a self-supporting missionary. We didn’t want to move.”

They did move, however. In fact, they moved three times—from New Mexico to Texas, Texas to Virginia, then back to Texas—while he finished his doctorate. Black said B.H. Carroll’s Ph.D. program made it possible to complete the degree without “missing a step.” He was also able to teach for B.H. Carroll from 2008-2018.

In 2015, Marv Knox, then editor of the Baptist Standard, asked Black to consider joining the board of the newspaper. He agreed, and in 2016 he was elected to serve. His presence on the board was the beginning of his education in journalism. He learned about an industry struggling to survive, largely because it wanted to maintain the traditional printed paper, but also because the reading and digital habits of most Americans had changed.

When Knox retired in 2017, Black’s new understanding and his commitment to the Baptist newspaper led to a logical conclusion among the board members. He could do the job.

He came in with a plan. The best way to strengthen the newspaper’s relevance was to build relationships. He spent the first year and a half meeting with pastors and Baptist leaders around the state of Texas.

This year, the newspaper “let go” of the subscription cost for the digital edition of the paper in favor of donor support. They also developed a podcast and an app (soon to be released). Now, the “paper” continues to experience an uptick in Internet traffic—53 percent over the previous year. In 2019, the Baptist Standard logged more than 1.18 million “impressions,” or page views.

“It was our best year ever,” Black said, speaking of the digital analytics.

And in May, the Associated Church Press granted an Award of Excellence to the Baptist Standard in the independent website category. The Evangelical Press Association also issued an award for the digital publication. 

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