NEW READERS may not realize that this February The Plain Truth enters its 50th year of publication. Its modest first edition in 1934 totaled about 250 copies. It was an eight-page, mimeographed issue. Today, The Plain Truth has a monthly circulation of more than five million copies worldwide in six languages.
The World in 1934
The whole world then was in great economic stress. Small, isolated "hot wars" were occurring regularly. Japan had already occupied Manchuria. Mussolini was carefully planning the invasion of Ethiopia. Late in 1934 French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou would be assassinated. And in Germany, Adolf Hitler had proclaimed himself dictator of the Third Reich. The United States was hard hit that year by drought and lack of soil conservation-measures. In the mid-western United States, farm after farm was literally blown away by the winds of the "Dust Bowl." It was in those tumultuous times that The Plain Truth made its humble appearance. Here are two headlines with drop heads from those early issues of The Plain Truth:
Is a World Dictator About to Appear?
Everybody senses that something is wrong with the world... that some mighty event is about to occur. What is it? Bible prophecy tells! Here is a solemn warning... and it is the plain truth!
What Is Going to Happen?
When will the next war come? Which will be first, the war precipitated by Russia... or the revival of the Roman Empire?
A Look at 1983
Today our world is again faced with severe economic problems, threatening to get out of hand. Armed conflicts recur like clockwork. But one thing is very different: nuclear destruction looms on the horizon like some dark foreboding cloud. Yet, The Plain Truth has a message of hope, as well as continuing not only to inform its readership of what is happening, but why events are happening- the true causes of the problems facing mankind today. In this sense, the Plain Truth magazine is unique. The world has changed considerably since 1934. And while The Plain Truth remains a magazine of understanding, it has undergone significant changes too. In November, 1958, circulation had reached 175,000. By July, 1967, the one million mark was passed. This figure was doubled by August, 1969. In 1973 worldwide circulation stood at more than three million copies. And finally by September, 1982, The Plain Truth's circulation passed five million, including more than two million newsstand copies. Besides the growth in circulation, the magazine itself has undergone significant physical changes. From 1934 to 1957, The Plain Truth remained a black and white magazine with a gradual increase in the number of pages over the years from eight to 24. In February, 1957, the magazine received a new look with the addition of one color, giving the magazine a duotone appearance. Later, in February of 1965, a color cover was added to a now 32-page magazine. Finally, in February of 1966, The Plain Truth became a full color magazine. When he began publishing The Plain Truth, Herbert W. Armstrong and his wife, Loma, were the complete staff. Mr. Armstrong wrote the entire magazine, typed the stencils and ran the copies off on a Neostyle printer while his wife kept up with the subscription list. Today, there are 133 men and women employed in Publishing and Editorial Services alone. These people write for, edit, design, typeset and do all prepress work on The Plain Truth, as well as other literature printed by the Worldwide Church of God. The subscription list and literature requests are handled by the 633 full- and part-time employees of the Mail Processing Center and Postal Services. But this is a global work and would not be possible without the more than 150 men and women who work in various offices scattered around the world. These are the people who have helped make the various international editions of The Plain Truth a reality.
Now in Six Languages
Let's start with Europe. Far from being confined to Central Europe's more than 100 million German speaking peoples, the German Plain Truth-Klar & Wahr finds its way into 108 countries and associated states. Klar & Wahr is the second oldest language edition of The Plain Truth family and plays an important part in reaching the economic heartland of Europe. The French-language edition has enabled The Plain Truth to get into the hands of Frenchmen and those who live in such linguistically diverse areas as Belgium, Canada, French Africa and Switzerland. In fact, La Pure Vérité is distributed in 149 countries and associated states. La Pura Verdad-the Spanish language Plain Truth- opened a door to the fourth largest language group in the world. Many, sometimes trying, obstacles have had to be overcome, especially the numerous differing postal systems. The Spanish-language Plain Truth has steadily grown in scope (it is now the second largest language edition). It serves the Spanish-speaking world, including the country that has the fifth largest Spanish speaking population in the world: the United States. Though there are only 20 million Dutch-speaking peoples, De Echte Waarheid has enabled the message of The Plain Truth to reach people in more than 60 different nations and associated states. And recently, after an aggressive ad campaign, our Dutch office in Utrecht has experienced a considerable increase in the Dutch subscription list. The newest language added to The Plain Truth family is Italian. Introduced in July of 1982, La Pura Veritii has been an amazing success story. The response thus far has been excellent. Projections suggest that by the time all the responses are tabulated from the two ad campaigns in 1982, subscriptions for La Pura Veritii will total more than 20,000. The oldest and by far largest language edition is the English-language Plain Truth. It is an enormous task to reach the second largest language group in the world. Today, the Plain Truth English edition goes into 202 nations and associated states around the world. Significantly, all the various language editions are printed in English-speaking nations. The bulk of the English-language Plain Truths, as well as the entirety of the Spanish and French editions, are printed at the huge R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Co., press in Glasgow, Kentucky, one of the largest printing establishments in the world.
Another significant milestone for The Plain Truth has been the success of the newsstand distribution program originally pioneered in the United Kingdom in July, 1971. Similar programs quickly followed in France, the Netherlands and West Germany in 1972. In January, 1976, the Spanish language Plain Truth also began a newsstand distribution program. A little more than seven months later, in July, 1976, newsstand distribution was begun in the United States and Canada. Today, newsstand distribution accounts for more than 30 percent of the new subscribers each year and about 40 percent of the total circulation of The Plain Truth.
The Latest Technology
The newest innovation to come to The Plain Truth is the acquisition of a state-of-the-art real time composition computer system. In much the same way as an aircraft flight simulator's computer responds immediately to an operator's manipulation of the controls, this new system enables the staff at Publishing Services to make any changes in text composition almost instantly. In addition, this system's messaging feature wil1 allow writers in Pasadena, California, to send completed texts of their articles to the various overseas offices' new terminals overnight for translation to begin the next day. When the translation is completed, the translated texts will be transmitted back to Pasadena in the same manner as originally sent. If everything goes according to plan, by mid-1983 all six language editions of The Plain Truth will be able to produce the same 48-page magazine for same-time distribution. Much has changed in the past 49 years for The Plain Truth. From those very early lean years in the '30s this Work has grown in much the same way as the "mustard seed" Christ mentioned in Matthew 13:31-32. Today, The Plain Truth is a modern, mass circulation magazine with a worldwide audience. Yet, the original basic guidelines for The Plain Truth remain the same. In fact, it is this perspective that makes The Plain Truth unique. It can be summed up in the words that are etched in the wall over the southwest entrance of Ambassador Hall on the campus of Ambassador College in Pasadena: "The Word of God Is the Foundation of Knowledge." These words guide all writers and editors of this magazine today even as they have Mr. Armstrong these 49 years. And they will continue to guide the entire organization as it enters its 50th year.