Gospel Today was born in the heart and home of Dr. Teresa Hairston many years ago. Dr. Hairston wrote the following memoir in 2011.
$300 & A Dream Come True by Dr. Teresa Hairston
One evening, many years ago, I attended one of those infamous Amway meetings where the facilitator asked, “If…God forbid, you died tomorrow, what legacy would you want to leave?” My answer centered on leaving a written legacy, one that would impact generations. Although the thought was there, the focus wasn’t.
Fast-forward 10 years. It’s 1988 and I’m now living in Fort Lee, NJ, divorced with three children—five-year-old twin girls and an eight-year-old son—and working two jobs (one full time as marketing director at Savoy Records, and a second as minister of music at Highway Church of Christ in New York city). I was “barely” making ends meet.
Even so, like Dr. King, I still had a dream, but I didn’t know how I could pull it off. Starting a business seemed like the impossible dream.
Instead of getting stuck in head-scratching mode, I decided to take a quantum leap and do something—even if it wasn’t the right something. My dream was to publish inspiring materials. Where would I begin?
I’d been playing the piano since the age of four. I loved music and over the years, Gospel had become my favorite genre. I’d dabbled in publishing, mostly as a hobby; I didn’t have a lot of knowledge. My college training certified me to teach music, but after a few years of teaching, I knew that wasn’t “it.”
As marketing director at Savoy Records, I had created a company newsletter, but it was now being moved to another division. Could I be successful as an independent publisher? (I had children to support!) Nooooo…I’m a musician, not a writer! My dreams were clashing with my reality.
That summer, at the annual Gospel Music Workshop of America Convention, the light came on! “I can publish a newsletter for this convention to help keep its chapters and members informed,” I thought, “it’ll be an instant hit!”
Around September of 1989, I approached my boss with the idea. Gaining his approval, I went forward getting the necessary GMWA buy-ins and sign-offs. Rev. James Cleveland (founder and president), Charles Fold (Board member and president of Chapter Representatives) and Ed Smith (business manager) all said yes.
All I needed to know was how much money GMWA was going to contribute to start things off—of course I knew that would mean shared ownership, but that was fine. I flew to Detroit to meet with Ed Smith and finalize the deal.
It was a crisp October morning when I landed in Detroit. Ed picked me up and took me to the flower shop he owned. It was almost lunchtime, and he bought me the best barbecue pork sandwich I’d had in years. As we ate, I launched into the conversation about my idea with all the excitement of a schoolgirl discussing her first crush. However, when I got to the part about the money, I thought Ed was going to lose his lunch! He laughed (in my face). “Darlin’,” he said, “we’ll give you all the support we can, but we ain’t got no money for you!” Even now I remember something crumbling within.
How was I going to get this million-dollar idea off the ground? This was not good!
The return trip from Detroit to New York was one of the longest flights ever. I had hit a brick wall. Then, I remembered my past days of dabbling in publishing—producing an independent newspaper in Columbus, Oh. I found the number of my old printer and called to see how much it would cost to do a 4-page newsletter.
I still had my income tax return money—about $600. It represented my total savings. I decided to go for it. I withdrew $300. to launch the new venture.
The first “GMWA SCORE” was a homely little 4-page newsletter. The first copies rolled off press in November 1989. It was an humble beginning, but to me it was the beautiful birth of my dream. Between the printing and shipping, my $300 was quickly consumed. I paid the bill and proceeded to start making the world aware of this great new arrival. “They’ll love it!” I thought.
The GMWA barely even acknowledged it when I sent my meager 200 copies out, but I was determined to make it work. Quitting never crossed my mind.I was in it to win it!
I renamed the monthly newsletter “The Gospel SCORE,” with a mission to connect lovers of Gospel music from coast to coast. It began to grow—slowly but surely—adding pages each month. I worked hard to gather information, however, with no established pipelines for Gospel news, it was difficult.
Financially, things were really rough. I couldn’t afford to keep going at this pace. The printing bills were eating into my personal income. I ended up getting a third job—playing for another church. Something had to break—and I hoped it wouldn’t be me!
That August (1990), the annual GMWA Convention would be held in Washington, D.C. With record attendance expected and with Rev. Cleveland’s support, it would be my first big opportunity for SCORE to become profitable! I decided that this would be the first “SCORE” magazine. I printed 7000 magazines with glossy color covers. I was sooo excited! They would sell like hotcakes!
To the amazement of the Gospel world, tragedy struck! Rev. Cleveland fell critically ill during the cross-country plane trip to Washington, D.C. When he arrived, he couldn’t even walk. I watched in horror as aides helped him out of his car and into the elevator. He never made it to the convention nor recovered. In February 1991, he died.
That week, I went back home with nearly 6800 magazines. I wanted to quit or die…but I couldn’t do either. I had faith (even though it felt like foolishness!). I had tasted walking in purpose and it was delicious.
Over the next three months, I saw the hand of God turn things around. Companies began tracking me down to buy ads. Stores started calling wanting to carry the magazine. I accepted a new job making more money, and moved to Nashville.
The next year (1992), I changed the name from SCORE to Gospel Today Magazine, and launched a trade publication, Gospel Industry Today, which was published for 13 years.
Over the course of the next two decades I learned some incredibly valuable lessons about what it takes to survive and thrive in business. Gospel Today became recognized as the leading magazine for the Urban Christian community—distributed nationally and internationally.
Adding to the visibility was Gospel Today TV, a 30-minute show based on GT subjects and issues; a weekly 5-minute radio show, the “Gospel Today Update” on the ABC Rejoice! Radio Network and The Light Radio Network and now on Rejoice! Musical Soul Food; a series of CDs recorded at the Gospel Heritage Praise & Worship Conference; and a string of “official publications” for major conferences.
The Next Chapter
Building on the rich legacy of the past, Gospel Today entered a new chapter with the dawning of the January/February 2012 issue. Dr. Teresa Hairston’s son, Roland T. Hairston, II assumed ownership and the role of Publisher of Gospel Today.
Throughout 2012, the Gospel Today team produced a series of edgy, provocative magazines that raised the level of conversation in the Urban Christian community tackling issues from new views on the resurrection to race relations; marriage-building to masturbation; modern-day discipleship to modern-day idolatry, all while introducing a diverse brand of Kingdom leaders from throughout the Urban Christian diaspora. It was a great year for readers, however, the economics of producing top quality print journalism demanded that Gospel Today look for an innovative new way to reach readers and in January 2013, Gospel Today went 100% digital.
Today, readers enjoy a series of rich discussions about the hot-button issues of our day, alongside keen insights that help us manage the important aspects of everyday life. Gospel Today is a place where the timeless truths of God’s Word inform us on how to engage with the changing mores of our day in a way that honors God and builds up others and ourselves.