Journalism

Blame The Media!

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The debate over Gays in the Church recently led to an interesting series of articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch called “Keeping Their Faith.” The articles profiled several Christians who happen to be homosexual. It featured a unique look at the struggles heterosexuals who are in the church have in dealing with homosexuals, and the struggles gay Christians have in dealing with their sexual orientation and religious feelings at the same time.

As you might expect, the series got quite a bit of reviews…and one of them really caught my attention. In a letter to the editor, a local reader wrote:

“I should imagine there was once a day when people could think for themselves–when the media’s job was to report the facts, with the exception of the occasional columnist you knew was simply expressing opinion and with whom you could choose to agree or disagree. More and more today, news has become facts with a twist. A little appropriate wording here and there and a writer has sufficiently managed to unnerve any reader who might not be particularly confident enough to stand for something he or she is inclined to believe in.

“Journalism has been taken over by mindless media moguls who seek nothing more than to make the world march in lock-step along with their beliefs, thereby making their chosen way of life more than considerably easy to live. Just say something in the form of fact rather than opinion and one can convince many people of many things. Running stories indicting Christians who hold to the view that homosexuality is wrong, or political cartoons mocking a Hollywood star as an egocentric deity for expressing his spiritual beliefs on screen, are just a few examples of manipulation in print.

“People who believe that morals are fundamental to existence are treated to a plethora of examples in which they are not only delusional, but bigots and hate-mongers. Unfortunately, many publications have followed in this dark and destructive path by claiming it is a means of reconciliation and renewal. Look around at the world we live in today, violent and amoral as it is, and tell me if it’s working.”

Well, the news media’s job is to report the facts. But to run a series of stories on a controversial issue that happens to be told from the point of view of those in the “less popular” or “more controversial” side of the issue does not mean that the news media who runs the story is promoting anything other than the facts. The media is simply reporting a new angle on the same story. There is always more than one side of the story, right, folks? I wonder how the writer would feel if homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuality was considered the “abnormal” way of life: would she mind if a newspaper ran a series on the debate over what is and isn’t normal if it was based on her point of view then?

And the fact that there are those who are so unsure of their point of view that a single news story can sway it one way or the other speaks volumes about the power of hearing the other side of the story. Very few things in our world are completely black or white. If a news item inspires someone to think about their views after hearing the views of others, isn’t this a form of social dialog? Don’t we, when we find ourselves in this situation, temporarily suspend our skepticism, our prejudices and our intolerances so that we can consider alternatives? Whether we ultimately shift our views or decide that our original views were the correct ones, haven’t we bettered our own position in the process?

The problem with today’s news consumers — and it isn’t their fault, really — is that there are so many demands on their time. News customers do not want “just the facts.” They want the facts presented in a way that makes them pay attention long enough to get them. This is what inspires new and different ways to tell the same story. And since when is “humanizing” a story a bad thing? If you hear a news story about your state government approving a rate increase for a local utility, what “facts” do you want to see: the black and white numbers that show the flat percentage rate of increase, or a quick look at the average dollar amount that a typical family might face? Careful, now: if you answer the latter, you’re expecting the media to put the “facts” into some kind of perspective!

I happen to find it sad that there are so many people in this country who are unwilling to listen to other people’s point of view. As a Christian, I find it particularly disturbing that a fellow Christian would encourage the banishment of such alternative views in news coverage. That, to me, isn’t upholding some kind of ethical standard, it’s censorship. When you only tell one side of the story, it isn’t journalism, it’s propaganda. And once you open the door to that, how do you know when your view on some other issue happens to be the view that gets silenced?

Blame the ills of society on the media if you like, dear readers. I’ll not share that view with you. I blame many of society’s ills on society itself. If we were willing to break bread with people who are different, learn more about them and at least try to understand what makes us different from each other, I suspect we wouldn’t have near the cultural war going on these days.

To understand someone else’s beliefs does not by definition require you to accept or agree with them…it merely requires you to open your mind long enough to consider them.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.