Category Archives: Media

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A bumper sticker popular in certain circles declares “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention”. Am I actually outraged? Or do I just see the outrageous?

Is outrage even possible now in response to moral depravity? Or, is it merely another way to be angry and hateful?

My former colleagues in the news media play a part in this sickening climate of public discussion; I’ve written about this before.

Three years ago, I published an obituary for American journalism. I was too hasty. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps journalism isn’t dead: it is now un-dead, zombie-like. News-as-golem.

What is called “news” has devolved into a soap opera: winners and losers; left and right; Ins and Outs; Non-mythinformation and conspiracy theory, and the like. Edification now takes a back seat to speculation.

Story lines are driven by ideological narrative, not from a desire to truly inform or enlighten. Hard questions are no longer asked; creating and sharing Fake Outrage are now the order of the day.

So what then, is a discerning person to do? My friend Joel Baker has some excellent observations, which lead to practical answers.

Problems and Solutions

News provokes an emotional reaction in us. We don’t usually notice it much because we’re used to it. If I can watch video of babies being murdered, buildings being bombed and catastrophic natural events without weeping, I have a hard heart. 1 Am I really immune to this? Or do I just spend too much time with it (and at the movies)?

A practical answer: Turn it all off until it hurts to watch it again because my heart is softer. The truth is, I don’t need to know. It’s okay not to know. 2

The more I consume stories of evil and mayhem, the more I become hardened to them. This endless scrolling through the Outrage Machine sows seeds and these seeds produce fruit: very bad fruit. 3

What is that fruit? Anxiety, fear, anger (I might justify this as “righteous anger”), judgment (I condemn someone), scorn (I laugh at someone), skepticism, disappointment, deep sadness, or misplaced hope in some man-made solution.

A practical answer: Prayer that leads to repentance for partnering with these things and a softer heart. 4

News is now like professional gossip: tasty morsels that go down easily but are laced with poison. 5

With everything I see, read, ponder or act upon, my daily choices are to respond, to react, or to ignore. There are only two outcomes: I harden my heart, or soften it.

A practical answer: God’s word. God’s word is truth. It purifies, sanctifies, washes, liberates and edifies me. All other words, including news media and social media, are laced with lies, which come from the father of lies. They ensnare me. They bind me. They slowly build a fortress of fake outrage that wars against true Godly outrage: moral outrage.

The words of the world are a heart-hardening potion. But the words of God are life and soften my heart, when I let them in, and let them rule me. 6

I must guard my heart above all things. It’s a fickle thing 7 and cannot be tamed, but it is the most precious think I own, after my soul. It’s worth guarding because I’m worth it. Jesus thinks so.

He thinks that about you too. 8

1. Jeremiah 18:11b-12 – “Repent now, everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your deeds good. But they say ‘There is no hope! But we will walk after our own devices, and each of us will do according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.”
2. Matthew 6:25 “Therefore, I say to you, take no thought about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body than clothing?”
3. Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit.”
4. Job 23:16 – “For God makes my heart soft, and the Almighty troubles me;”
5. Ezekiel 21:7 – “It shall be when they say to you ‘Why do you groan?’ that you shall answer, ‘Because of the news that is coming. And every heart shall melt, and all hands shall be feeble, and every spirit shall faint, and all knees shall be weak as water. It comes and shall be brought to pass,’ says the Lord God.”
6. Ezekiel 36:26 – “Also, I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”
7. Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it?”
8. Ephesians 2:10 – “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)

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A Full Mind is an Empty Mind

All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance. – Will Rogers

I open my browser each morning,
Check in with curation-phone.
The pages are full of opinions,
With nothing new under the sun.

The newspaper too, where I find one.
A daily parade of the same.
The wag of the finger, the self-righteous tone,
Declaring the villain to blame.

The inbox as well, it is chock-full
Of siren songs: Eat-me and Drink.
Like Alice I blindly consume them,
And change the way that I think.

This molding is not to my liking;
It’s not even of my own choice.
When real information’s abandoned
In exchange for invidious voice.

The press is now propagandistic;
Agendas leap out to attack.
It seems like there’s no one to turn to
And certainly no turning back.

Our choices are clear, bright and simple:
The choice is between death and life.
One choice is the tightrope of freedom
The other a slippery cliff.

So turn off your lousy subscriptions.
Stop reading repetitive lies.
Stare out the window a moment or six.
And enjoy the truth that inspires.

‘You are what you eat’ said the writer.
It’s equally true for the heart.
Take care what you feed yourself – really.
Eat smartly, or be blown apart.

Distraction will lead to deception;
Delusion is not far behind.
Destruction will certainly follow,
In all those who keep themselves blind.

Such blindness may come from a smartphone,
Or earbuds we will not remove.
They create inhuman relation,
Replacing the flesh-and-blood kind.

A ‘wicked perverse generation’
The Christ called the men of his time.
A truth that is true in all seasons,
It holds in the days that are mine.

So I think I’ll go stare out the window,
Instead of the window within.
To see Him in His good creation,
And in my own freedom from sin.

The psalmist reports on the heavens,
How they speak of God’s wonderful love.
My own inner beauty reflects them,
And His grace means I’ve nothing to prove.

Image by Kaique Rocha via Pexels

black continental silenta typewriter

What It Is

(A six-minute read)

What is journalism? I asked this question back in April and then took almost fifteen hundred words to outline what it is not.

I broke my own rule, which is: define yourself by who you are, not by who you aren’t. After all, that’s what God does. Oh well, I’m only human.

To sum up my previous observations: self-proclaimed journalism today is unrecognizable to one who was trained in the craft forty years ago.

Please understand that, while I do have my own biases (as we all do), I offer the following analysis without regard to ‘left’ or ‘right’. No one is blameless in this – no, not even your favorite outlet, whatever it is. It’s the rotten state of a rotting industry.

And yet, in the midst of rot, new life springs up. There is still real journalism out there, and it’s worth paying for. Use some of the tools below and go find it. It’s worth the search.

Think For Yourself

If you look hard enough and spend time thinking about what you read, you can avoid falling into a pit of your own biases. Yes, I know how comfortable it is to consume things that reinforce what I already believe. But gaining knowledge means going where the information is, even into an unfamiliar neighborhood.

It’s like properly reading the Bible. I have to read what Jesus said about hell and my chances of going there just as much as I read about how much he loves me and will forgive me when I confess and repent. Picking and choosing only what I like leads me into error there, just as it does as I peruse what’s written, published and broadcast.

Back to journalism. A classic definition of journalism is, ‘writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation (emphasis mine).

In two short decades we’ve gone from that to almost endless presentations of opinion, without a necessary regard for the facts. Opinion used to be called opinion. Opinions were like a certain orifice: everybody had one. Now these orifices are on full display, relabeled as journalism.

Like so many other things, the definition has changed for the convenience of the People In Charge.

Our Upside-Down World

We live in an evil-is-good, Scripture-is-hate, man-is-woman, feelings-are-truth, subjective-is-final counterfeit-rainbow sort of world.1 And in this, opinion is now masked as journalism. What the People In Charge decide is right becomes truth.

I’ve said before that the term ‘echo chamber’ is a misnomer. The highly politicized social culture that has evolved in the absence of real journalism has moved us way past ‘echo chamber.’ We are now stuck in a copy machine, which cranks out page after endless page of an idealized version of real-time events as the People in Charge wish them to be.

There are now two things masking as journalism that call themselves journalism. And many of those who practice it are finally admitting that they must help you, Dear Reader, by interpreting the truth for you. But the occasional small glimmer of light isn’t enough – at the moment – to offset all the misdirection that’s out there.

Narrative and Myth

The vast majority of what we see, hear, read and are told now falls into two categories, Narrative and Myth.

Narrative is a political or social point of view that is pushed by unseen publishers and editors to influence what is reported, how it is reported and, much more important, what is not reported. Much of modern ‘news media’ product of all sorts falls into this category.

Myth is the construction of a narrative around a made-up point of view, i.e. so-called conspiracy theories or the assertion of conclusions as fact, without actually citing any facts. Myth-making is a convenient strategy for news media elites to underpin the narrative stories they tell for their own aggrandizement.

Ooooo-kay. What Now?

Here are some tips to help you know actual journalism from narrative or myth.

True journalism:

  • Presents information without bias. Look for headlines without the following: could, should, might, may, believe, possible, possibly, reports say.
  • Contains no clickbait.
  • Only makes an assertion with a quoted source, sometimes two.
  • Relies on named sources, not ‘sources say’.
  • Verifies every story independently, as opposed to simply republishing someone else’s work without checking it.
  • Has no ‘fact check’ column, because the checking of facts occurs in the writing and editing of stories before they are released.
  • Gives you information without labeling it as what you need to know about ___
  • Describes any criminal charge or accusation as ‘alleged’ until a court has rendered a verdict.
  • States any institutional point of view up front. To that point, carefully watch story selection for ‘slant’ or ‘exclusion.’ A true journalistic venture will have roughly equal numbers of stories (in aggregate) from various points of view.
  • Runs easily seen corrections when mistakes are made.
  • Doesn’t change copy without announcing it.
  • Publishes stories that go against the general editorial position of the outlet.
  • Has reporters follow the money and the paper trail, not the loudest voices.
  • Has publishers and editors make editorial policy, not a mob of junior line employees or worse, social media.
  • Doesn’t tell lies with a straight face.

Hope Remains

Pre-industrial, pre-scientific humanity had a myth-weaving culture. Stories were created to explain things people could not understand or fathom: creation, the nature of good and evil, the seeming impartiality of natural forces. These myths all reflected local biases and experience.

As civilizations advanced, each group developed its own version of these myths and told these stories over and over. Through this, narratives were born.

Eventually, as the rule of law superceded the rule of men (h/t John Adams) it seemed wise that a well-informed citizenry was crucial to maintenance of a stable pluralistic society. Journalism served this function. In the American republic (and indeed in all free Western nations), this free flow of information was available so people could make up their own minds about things.

Yes amazing as it seems, ordinary people were trusted with making up their own minds.

Incredibly, people were trusted with raw information.

Sadly, The People in Charge are afraid to do that now. If we know too much, we might throw them out. Well, as Mulder and Scully said, ‘the truth is out there.’ We’ll see how that works out for the People In Charge over the next few years. If it does work out for them: tyranny. If not, freedom may yet prevail.

In Conclusion

If wishes were fishes and cattle were kings, the world would be full of wonderful things. But they aren’t.

1. Go ahead. Cancel me. It will say more about the state of your heart than mine.

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