Published August 2, 2011
"Surrendering the Media"
I spent the first decade or so of my "professional life" working in secular broadcast news. It had been a passion of mine since childhood. I worked for eight years as a radio news director and two years as a television news director. But, despite working shoulder-to-shoulder with some fine people, I often felt like a "stranger in a foreign land." My values were not their values. I saw, from the "inside," the bias that was evident in so much of the day's reporting.
And if I thought it was bad then (which I did), those days pale in comparison to what we're seeing today. Very few journalists a single-digit percentage, if I recall correctly consider themselves active, professing Christians. A comparably low percentage consider themselves politically conservative. So what would you expect?
Because of all of that, I was very interested in the following article from ASSIST news service, used here by permission. Even the title asks a provocative question, worthy of some consideration.
Have Christians Abandoned Media to the Enemy?
By Mark A. Kellner1
I was pondering the most-recent round of Christian bashing the so-called "mainstream media" has undertaken. In the wake of the tragic and senseless violence in Norway, some organizations, most notably The New York Times, have dubbed the alleged assailant a "Christian extremist."2
The reaction from Christians was swift and unambiguous: however he may style himself, the man who is claiming responsibility for these heinous crimes is not a Christian. (As the late Keith Green used to remind his audiences: "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger." Green's point: being a Christian requires a commitment on the part of an individual to actively follow Christ's teachings, which most assuredly don't involve the use of assault rifles to mow down innocent young people.)
But how did this happen? Ten years ago, twenty years ago - and, most assuredly, 40 years ago - you would not have had seemingly responsible media outlets leap to conclusions, particularly on the basis of a claim from a single, unidentified, Oslo police force member. Besides lacking a name and rank for the (presumed) officer, we also lack any context: Why did this person say the alleged perpetrator was a "Christian extremist," if those were the exact words used? What was this member of law enforcement trying to say?
One of the reasons this was so quickly taken up in some corners, I believe, is because it fit a perception of the millions of people who claim a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and a belief in the Bible as the Word of God. If you take such things seriously, you must be "one donut short of a dozen," or a rube, a hick, an uneducated tool of Elmer Gantry's latter-day offspring.
Indeed, on February 1, 1993, Michael Weisskopf, then a reporter for The Washington Post, wrote in a news article the assertion that followers of the Christian Right are "poor, uneducated, and easy to command." Within 24 hours, the Post issued a correction because, as the paper conceded, there was "no factual basis" for that statement.
From where did such an assumption arise? I can't say for sure, but I'll wager (rhetorically, of course) that a good chunk of it stems from a lack of evangelical Christians in newsrooms, and certainly in news management positions, let alone the circles in which secular newspeople travel. If, as studies have shown, many in news leadership positions are either nominally observant or largely secular, they won't be found at any large church at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Evangelicals, in turn, may not hang out where the secular folks are at that hour, either.
There are many dedicated Christians working in newsrooms across the country, and I pray their ranks increase. But I don't know if there's a replacement at The New York Times for the great evangelical, and reporter, John McCandlish Phillips. If evangelicals can't crack the upper reaches of such a paper, their perception by the Times' editors will likely be distorted, or secondhand at best.
What to do? Encourage our young people to get active in journalism, to climb the ladder and become part of news management. We can pray that journalists, even editors of the great newspapers or producers at the broadcast and cable networks, are somehow converted, and see their world through eyes made new.
1. Mark A. Kellner is a veteran journalist based in Fulton, Maryland who contributes to The Washington Times. The views he expresses here are his own. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and his website is: www.kellner.us
2. The term used by the Associated Press was "fundamentalist Christian." But the shooter's own writings indicate he clearly wasn't religious, didn't pray, doubts the existence of God and embraces Darwinism over the Biblical account of creation. That's the antithesis of Christian fundamentalism. "Christian," for this guy, is merely a social construct. He also very clearly advocated killing Muslims, clearly an un-Christian stand. But, never mind to the liberal media, any opportunity to bash "fundamentalist Christians" is seized, regardless of the total lack of truth involved.
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