LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Ever since he was a boy, Charlie Warren knew he was good at writing. What he did not know, however, was that it would lead into a 40-year path of ups and downs, highs and lows and eventually to the Arkansas Baptist News, where he has served for 11 years and from where he will retire effective Dec. 31.
It was not until college that Warren began considering a career in journalism. At first, he planned to pursue secular journalism. Then, he met a pastor who told him about options available in religious journalism, and Warren transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee to pursue this path.
“That’s when it really solidified my sense of calling to go into religious journalism,” Warren said.
Soon after college, Warren found himself in Zambia, Africa, working as an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary journeyman at a publishing house. He spent the first year learning about various aspects of the publishing house before running the business during his second year while the missionary director was on stateside assignment.
Although Warren did write articles while he was in Zambia, it was after he returned to the states that his actual career in journalism took off. His first official journalism job was as a staff writer in the public relations office of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, where he worked while pursuing a seminary degree.
“That’s what really got me started in Baptist journalism,” Warren said. He noted some of his mentors there included veteran Baptist journalists Robert O’Brien and Orville Scott.
The experience also gave Warren a name in Baptist journalism circles; after he finished seminary, the IMB offered him a job as senior editor at the news office in Richmond, Va., where he worked for four years.
“God has so blessed me because every time I felt ready for a change, it’s almost like something would just drop in my lap,” Warren said. “It just was incredible how things worked out … and I know not everybody has that experience, and even good, faithful Christian people don’t always have that experience. But I have had that experience and I’m grateful for it.”
From the IMB, Warren went to Southern Baptists’ former Brotherhood Commission as associate editor of World Mission Journal.
“That was a great job because I got to travel all the time,” Warren said, recounting that he traveled across the United States and even overseas.
He went on to do a nine-year stint at the Baptist and Reflector, the Tennessee Baptist paper as associate editor under Al Shackleford, who also became a mentor for Warren. After this, he served for nine years as editor of Home Life magazine, a publication of LifeWay Christian Resources.
After his time with Home Life, Warren assumed the position of public relations director at OBU, and although it was enjoyable, he said he felt like “a fish out of water.”
“I’m a journalist; I’m not a PR person,” Warren said. “And so when this opportunity to come [to the Arkansas Baptist News] came along, I really jumped at it. It was a wonderful experience.”
Warren became editor after Trennis Henderson, the former editor and a friend of his, became editor of the state Baptist paper in Kentucky.
Looking back at his 11 years at the Arkansas paper, Warren ponders some of the changes that have taken place.
“It’s unbelievable, really, the transitions,” he said, noting that the first major change he took part in was transitioning the paper’s format from a magazine to a tabloid in 2001.
“That was an exciting time because, as a staff, we really did a lot of creative brainstorming,” Warren said. Not only did they discover the tabloid size allowed more space for less cost, but they also decided to redesign the paper in general.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It involved virtually the whole staff.”
Other major changes during his time at the ABN have revolved around technology, including the development of a website and the recently introduced ABN Now virtual publication. “So all the technological changes have been pretty astounding,” Warren said.
Yet, with as many changes as he has overseen at the ABN, they do not hold a candle to the changes he has seen in journalism throughout his overall career.
“When I first began working as a Baptist journalist, we knew nothing about desktop publishing. There were no PCs, no Internet, no e-mail, no cell phones, no laptops,” Warren said. “When reporting on the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I typed my stories on a manual typewriter, then called the office and dictated the story to a secretary who typed it a second time. Then it went to a typesetter who typed it again. The story would then come out as a galley to be run through a waxer and stuck down on a layout board. Now, of course, all that is done electronically.”
Some highlights that Warren lists in his career include disaster relief coverage for the IMB. By covering the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, he became the first journalist the IMB ever sent to cover a disaster. As such, his coverage was picked up by many publications and wire services.
Other highlights include his travels for the Brotherhood Commission and redesigning both the Tennessee paper and Home Life magazine. He also enjoyed Home Life’s emphasis on family.
“I’ve always felt like my family has been a wonderful experience … and helping other people deal with issues of marriage and parenting, I really felt a great deal of fulfillment during my years there.”
Warren also said he thinks he has hired quality staff members during his years at the ABN and he also cited the excellence of the ABN’s board of directors.
Erby Burgess, president of the ABN’s board, said the Arkansas Baptist News “has been greatly blessed under Charlie Warren’s guidance. Charlie’s integrity and warmth have been evident in each issue. He has proven a friend of Arkansas Baptists and Southern Baptists as he has admirably told the stories of those who are telling Christ’s story around the world. I hope Charlie enjoys retirement and the opportunity to have more time with family, but we will miss his leadership.”
With his retirement on the horizon, Warren looks to the future.
“My No. 1 plan is to be an excellent granddaddy,” he said, mentioning he might also do some freelance writing and editing. Freelance work, however, comes second to family. “Mainly I just want to really spend some quality time with my children and grandchildren.”
Looking back at his journey with the ABN, Warren summed it up, saying, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Arkansas Baptists all across the state. [There are] some wonderful people here. I’ve interviewed some great, great people, and I just have enjoyed being a part of telling their story about how God is using them.”
Jessica Vanderpool is assistant editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.