A force for goodwill, encouragement, unity
How can I be anything but grateful for the 23…
LUBBOCK, Texas — I don’t like “Christian journalism.” I don’t think it even should exist.
Putting the word “Christian” in front of things — “Christian music,” “Christian education” — reduces them to subsets of “real music,” “real education.”
In truth, any undertaking that grows nobly from the foundation of faith, honoring God as Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer, is real. And endeavors that deny or attempt to mimic this foundation with something other than God are deviations from the real.
Too often, my fellow Christians don’t see it that way. They speak with disdain about “the media” and tell us that The Christian Chronicle should strive to exist “separate and apart” from it. (We are, I believe, part of “the press” — a term that appears in the First Amendment and one I prefer over “the media.” More on that later.)
With all this in mind, I was thrilled to speak on a panel at this year’s Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lubbock Christian University. The topic: “News Organizations and the Integrity of Information: How Do We Change the Perception of Trustworthiness?”
Doug Mendenhall, associate professor of journalism at Abilene Christian University, chaired the panel. He talked about his research into the language of incivility across the websites of various denominations. (There have been some increases in the past five years, but hardly on the scale of what we’re seeing on CNN, FOX News and other media outlets.)
Elizabeth Smith, assistant professor of communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., presented research she conducted on students’ perception of the press as they ran through The Situation Room Experience, a crisis simulation at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Smith and her colleagues are investigating whether or not seeing a video explaining the responsibilities of the press before the simulation affects participants’ views of the press.
Michael Anastasi spoke on the need for community engagement and about how newspapers must leave behind the practice of talking at people rather than talking with them.”
Anastasi is a Pulitzer-winning journalist who serves as editor of The Tennessean and region editor for the USA Today Network in Tennessee and Florida, overseeing the work of more than 400 journalists. He made that important distinction between “media” and “press.” He also stressed the importance of watchdog and accountability reporting.
But newspapers also must produce “a journalism of hope,” he said, “reflecting the achievements of our community, the great things that are happening, not just the problems. And when we do expose problems … we’re providing potential solutions and not just illustrating how things are messed up.”
Newspapers “have a magic power to bring people together.”
Newspapers “have a magic power to bring people together,” he said. He noted The Tennessean’s Civility Tennessee project, which focuses on getting people to discuss contentious issues respectfully, “in a way that encourages civil discourse, arriving at solutions that benefit everyone.”
The goal: equipping people with tools to be able to have hard conversations about contentious topics, from politics to the anti-vaccination movement. (I can think of a few topics in our fellowship that could benefit from civil discourse.)
After serving on this panel, I’m even more convinced than before that the goals of good journalists and Christ followers are one and the same. Journalism of hope is what we continually seek to produce at The Christian Chronicle. I pray that we stay focused on this goal in the coming months as we transition into new roles and look for new opportunities to inform, inspire and unite Churches of Christ.
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