Marvin Olasky World
WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky is one of four WORLD top editorial staffers to leave the magazine recently due to a shift towards opinion. (Courtesy photo)

Marvin Olasky, Other Top Staff Leave as WORLD Shifts Toward Opinion

By Sarah Einselen

Four of WORLD Magazine’s top editorial staffers—including its longtime editor-in-chief, Marvin Olasky—have resigned within weeks of each other as WORLD News Group shifts to a bigger emphasis on opinion.

An article Sunday in The New York Times reported that Olasky had resigned November 1, and Senior Editor Mindy Belz resigned effective October 29.

The Roys Report has also learned that Angela Lu Fulton, managing editor for WORLD, and senior reporter Sophia Lee offered their letters of resignation Oct. 27.

Fulton and Lee confirmed to The Roys Report that they’d resigned but declined further comment. Lee said a column was forthcoming announcing her departure.

Olasky told The Times he had interpreted WORLD News Group’s recent launch of a dedicated opinions platform as an effective “vote of no confidence.” WORLD Opinions is the newest of several distinct publications of WORLD News Group. Olasky tweeted that he still has confidence in the magazine, but sees World Opinions as “a problem.”

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He told the Times, “I am not interested in the project of a conservative opinion magazine.”

Olasky also noted that an October 2016 editorial calling Trump “unfit for power” drew 2,000 mostly dissenting emails in response. WORLD founder Joel Belz said the incident “divided our staff as we have never been divided before.”

New York Times’ Reporter Ben Smith characterized Olasky’s departure as “another example of the American news media sinking deeper into polarization, as one more conservative news outlet . . . is conquered by Trump.”

In a tweet Sunday, Olasky called Smith’s piece “fair” and said he’d be praying for the “excellent journalists” still at WORLD.

Yet, WORLD CEO Kevin Martin told the Times he disagrees with perceptions that WORLD is becoming pro-Trump.

“I don’t see in any way that we are becoming more partisan or more Trumpy,” he told Smith.

Similarly, Joel Belz said he believes Olasky’s departure is simply a matter of “growing pains.”

In an Oct. 21 column about her resignation , Mindy Belz wrote that her approach to journalism was “at times at odds . . . with some directions World News Group is charting.”

Belz wrote WORLD’s first cover story in 1986 and spent the following three decades reporting from around the world. But the fuel for such efforts “isn’t found in viewpoint journalism,” she wrote.

CEO Martin told The Roys Report that WORLD will continue its investigative reporting, despite adding more opinion.

“We absolutely plan to continue doing investigations . . . as they come up,” he said. “Nothing has changed with regards to our direction, with regards to reporting first.”

Since its founding, WORLD has been known for its rigorous reporting and willingness to report the stories few other evangelical publications would.

WORLD was one of the first to report on now-disgraced Mars Hill Church founder, Mark Driscoll. It also broke the story about Dinesh D’Souza attending a conference with a woman who was not his wife.

WORLD also stood by The Roys Report’s founder Julie Roys in 2018, as she fended off a lawsuit by James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, while continuing to investigate the megachurch and its pastor.

“When I told Marvin (Olasky) about the lawsuit, he immediately recognized it for what it was—an attempt to intimidate me into silence and unconstitutional prior restraint. On principle, Marvin refused to take me off the story,” Roys said. “I will forever be grateful to Marvin for that.”

Diverging approaches

In early September, CEO Martin announced that WORLD Opinions would launch Oct. 1 under the direction of Albert Mohler and Andrew Walker as managing editor. Walker is a professor teaching ethics and apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler is the seminary’s president and a former WORLD board member.

Martin wrote that recent events “have left us feeling the need for more help thinking about the things that matter to us and identifying the things that should matter to us” (emphasis original).

He also pledged that the magazine and WORLD Digital, the news group’s web arm, would “continue to emphasize street-level reporting” along with expanded domestic and international news coverage.

Less than two months later, Olasky expressed little enthusiasm about opinion journalism.

“The trend in journalism these days is to emphasize opinion, not reporting,” he wrote in a column published in WORLD two days after he informed his superiors he’d be resigning. “Reporting is costly; opining is relatively cheap. It can lead to more ‘reader engagement’ in terms of clicks, likes, shares—and subscriptions. Challenging readers or donors can be costly: Supporting proclivities and prejudices is better at cementing loyalty. . . .

“For me, it’s an ethical imperative to challenge readers and viewers, not pander to them,” he continued.

Olasky has said he’ll remain the dean of World Journalism Institute, a training and career program run by WORLD News Group’s parent nonprofit, God’s World Publications. (Disclosure: The author of this article, Sarah Einselen, attended a WJI conference in 2012 for which WJI paid all expenses.)

The four October departures came after two other WORLD staffers moved on over the summer.

Staff reporter Harvest Prude, who wrote an exposé on Madison Cawthorn when he was running for Congress as a Republican, left in May to work with The Dispatch. Megan Basham, a host for WORLD’s flagship podcast “The World and Everything In It,” left for The Daily Wire later this past summer.

Basham said she didn’t think the departures of Olasky and Belz signaled a problem. “I have great faith in World’s intentions and mission,” she said on Twitter, adding that “biblically grounded opinion which is not the same thing as conservative opinion” was greatly needed.

Olasky is not leaving WORLD immediately, but told the Times he will see the magazine’s annual Roe v. Wade issue through

UPDATE: This article has been updated to distinguish between World Magazine and World Opinion, and to note that Al Mohler no longer serves on WORLD’s board. Also, WORLD Managing Editor Angela Lu Fulton posted the following resignation letter on Twitter:

Angela Lu Fulton

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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25 thoughts on “Marvin Olasky, Other Top Staff Leave as WORLD Shifts Toward Opinion”

  1. Kimberly Chastain

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been a World subscriber for a long time. All the ones leaving are some of my favorite reporters. I loved Mindy Belz reporting on issues in the Middle East. Angela Lu Felton wrote great articles on homelessness and all the complicating factors. I really do not need more opinions. I agree with Marvin Olasky that opinion are many and inexpensive. Good reporting is hard and expensive. I will be watching very carefully and they may have lost a subscriber! I am very disappointed and saddened.

  2. Kimberly Chastain

    I meant to include one more thing. I could tell by reading articles something was going on, but was unable to read the “tea leaves”. Thanks for the information.

    1. David G, good quote. WORLD is known for thorough investigations, unbiased reporting, and allowing readers to form their own conclusions. Worthwhile opinions are based on factual information. Olasky’s departure leaves me concerned that the magazine’s future editorials will lack such support.

  3. Sad to see Olasky and the rest of the editorial staff go, as I have read World magazine for many years.

    I really do not want a “new” platform with more opinions from evangelicals as the pro-Trumpers and the anti-vaxxers will drown out everyone else on the platform.

    It sort of gives the state of evangelism in the U.S….

    I grew up as a kid attending a number of “dysfunctional’ evangelical churches … it was not until I went to a Christian college that I got “squared” away by good Christian professors.

    One thing I remember from all those churches, the people attending those dysfunctional churches just “loved loved loved” the head Pastors. It just shows it is about “loyalty” to someone and not about the bible.

    I am amused by the CEO’s comment that “I don’t see in any way that we are becoming more partisan or more Trumpy,” Do not worry with Olasky gone….World will become a surrogate for Trump and what people now call “Conservatism”……

    As Trump says…… evangelicals are big part of his Big Beautiful Base…..

    1. Have you looked at the Opinions section? It is led by Albert Mohler, who is not exactly a Trump acolyte. I don’t see a shift in direction so much as an addition of what Mohler calls “looking at news from a biblical worldview”

  4. Perhaps the most significant and focused article that I’ve read on The Roy’s Report. The distinction between “opinion” and “reporting” remains as slippery as ever. This article’s phrasing then did its strong best to point up the importance of the distinction and its preservation. Grateful to its author for that; and to the journalists the piece reports on. Will be rereading to aid my own fixing on the distinction.

  5. This is indeed disappointing news that may lead to me canceling my World subscription. Time will tell. I enjoy and respect reading opinions, but I need biblical worldview focused quality journalism. WNG claims it is not abandoning the latter – I will watch and determine that for myself.

  6. I am a consistent listener to “The World and Everything In It” podcast and a fan of Marvin Olasky (books, reporting and editorials). However, I am confused about the distinctions that have been drawn here between what World has already done for years and what is happening now. World has always offered opinion pieces and editorials.

    In the story above, Sarah notes that Mr. Olasky told the Times, “I am not interested in the project of a conservative opinion magazine.” Yet in the very next sentence, Sarah noted that he wrote an editorial opinion piece about Trump in 2016 calling Trump “unfit for power”. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees, the piece was an opinion piece. Again, this is something World has always done.

    Why the resistance to Christian leaders, like Mr. Olasky, offering a biblical analysis of current events? I have certainly appreciated Mr. Olasky’s opinions in the past. His editorials/opinions help me think through these issues biblically and critically.

    It seems to me that the only thing that has changed is WHO offers the opinion and what those opinions are. Again, I am a fan of World and Marvin Olasky. But it seems that the issue is not the offering of opinion, but which opinions are offered.

    These are truly divisive times. Maybe it has always been this way. My best to both – those who are moving on and the ones who are sticking around at World to move their mission forward.

    1. This puzzles me, too. There was a lot of fuss about Mr. Olasky taking an obtrusively anti-Trump position at the time, when readers just wanted Reporting and not more liberal Trump hating. Splitting opinion off into a separate section seems like a good solution to that— it keeps Opinion from contaminating reporting. The only problem will be if the new section takes money away from hiring reporters for the main, news, part of the magazine. That is indeed a potential problem. There are lots of good Christian opinion webzines and blogs, so we don’t need a new one. The new American Reformer, for example, is very good (https://americanreformer.org/). But we are in huge need of both regular and Christian-oriented news, real reporting of facts that we won’t know about unless someone does a little digging. And with real reporting, each new reporter adds to what we know, rather than merely repeating what we’ve heard before.

      1. Not all criticism of Trump should be automatically categorized as “liberal Trump hating.” That sort of overly simplistic thinking is unhelpful.

    2. The fact that World offers opinion columns at all isn’t what Olasky is complaining about, so the fact that he once offered up an anti-Trump opinion column is completely irrelevant, and in no way invalidates his position even if people are trying very hard to make it so.

      He is objecting to the increased focus on opinion which he says comes at the cost of good journalist. He is also concerned that the beefed up opinion column will lack the previous diversity of opinion that encourages debate and is designed to make people think as opposed to making it a safe space echo chamber for right-wing conservatives and Trump supporters.

      Time will tell if he’s right, but it doesn’t look promising.

  7. The opinion to reporting ratio at World magazine has always been perfect, I thought. So many informative articles over the years (and my husband and I have subscribed since the 90’s); opinion included as a garnish, not a main dish. I wish World well but am not sure I can stay; so many of the writers I regard most highly are leaving. Mindy Belz is without peer in evangelical reporting, no one does what she has done. Sophia Lee’s penetrating insights and story telling ability are top notch. And the back page without Marvin Olasky? Nearly unthinkable. So many memorable articles and insights, I am very grateful to each writer and to Angela Fulton and all who work behind the scenes. Thank you, Godspeed in your new endeavors…

  8. There was a lot of fuss about Mr. Olasky taking an obtrusively anti-Trump position at the time, when readers just wanted Reporting, not more of the Trump hating they get in the mainstream media. Splitting opinion off into a separate section seems like a good solution — it keeps Opinion from contaminating reporting.
    True, though, there are lots of good Christian opinion webzine already. The new American Reformer, for example, is good (https://americanreformer.org/). But we are in huge need of real reporting of facts that we won’t know about unless someone does a little digging. Each new reporter adds to what we know, rather than merely repeating it.

  9. As practical matter, the news group my need to bring in more cash. If a company is not staying afloat, it has to figure out how to bring in more patronage. I am not saying this is the case but it probably is a business decision as well.

  10. Meredith Nienhuis

    Count me as one of the “2000” that was unhappy with Marvin Olasky’s comment that Trump was “unfit for power”. There were a couple of other (Ms Cheney?) World writers who so judged President Trump as of lowly character; And in so doing “got in bed with” progressive candidates running for office in 2018 on the grounds that D J Trump was a terrible person and that he colluded with Russia to win in 2016. Olasky and other World writers in so many words were to me as the self-righteous Pharisee in Jesus’ parable saying “Thank God that I am not a sinner like Trump!”
    I would encourage Mr. Olasky and the others to withdraw their resignations and/or Mr. Belz to not accept their resignations, and that World Mag remain primarily a source of Truth and Salt and Light and to Not be caught up in political arguments which are rooted in the one who “masquerades as an angel of light” as do his minions.
    Long I have respected WORLD Mag and given subscriptions to family and friends because of its Biblical worldview.
    If World is wrongly changing it may become Worthless to me.

    1. This just smacks of the Manichean “You must never criticize Trump or else you’re guilty of being a leftist” rhetoric that emanates from much of conservative evangelicalism these days. It’s not sound thinking.

  11. Meredith Nienhuis

    If one wishes to criticize, or support, someone running for office, or in office; may I suggest that it should be according to their standings on the issues and for their accomplishments.

  12. I’ve come to realize that I can’t blame Trump for bringing out what was already there: the desire for political power that is contaminating the church’s witness for Christ.

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