Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Journalism


The “scop” or “bard” in Germanic culture (including Anglo-Saxon) went about entertaining and enlightening with voice and lute. The stories they sang were often based on truth, but embellished to flatter the head of the clan or some high-ranking hero. They were professionals, receiving gifts from the nobility in direct proportion to the entertainment quality of their songs. The singer of Beowulf was an early such entertainer-enlightener and Chaucer was a later medieval version. I believe Chaucer lost the lute. They were early “journalists” who most assuredly had a point of view. As a one-time journalist myself, I know what it means to strive for objectivity. When I first started, I wanted to present, as Joe Friday used to say, just the facts and nothing but the facts. But I soon discovered that objectivity is next to impossible for me because I have a firm point of view, namely, that of holding to certain immutable absolutes. So, as I look back on some of my longer news stories, I find a distinct bias towards the Christian worldview. I got by with it because I lived and wrote in an area where many shared that worldview.

Today, journalism is changing rapidly, so we must strive to be particularly astute in discerning the worldview behind what is being written or said. Without looking at the television, I can guess what network or cable brand is behind the “reporting.” Blatant bias is becoming the norm. Thus, social media! But even these outlets bring non-objective bias and sometimes downright phony stories. Twitter can capture utterances straight from the horse’s mouth, but there are worldview issues in play in such cases as well. I have noticed that people tweet and retweet elements from cyberspace that suit their own often narrow take on the news.

It is easy to find things you agree with but not easy to examine why you agree with them. Lazy “research” is the kind that leads to the fore-imagined outcome. For me, the best way to draw a conclusion about news is to evaluate it in the light of absolutes. If a story is wishy-washy, it is often designed for a political purpose. If it is rigid, it is likely to be dogma. If the story has an angry tone it is probably condemnatory rather than persuasive, saying, in effect, “You make me mad, therefore you are wrong.”

There are real reasons and “good” reasons. Often, journalists with a strong non-objective point of view give you an abundance of “good” reasons for their conclusions while striving to hide the real reasons. People do that kind of thing in relationships all the time. “I went fishing because I wanted to bring home some fish for supper.” That is a good reason. The real reason may be something else altogether. “I go to church because I want to serve the Lord.” That is a good reason. The real reason may be something else altogether. Journalists should be up front and open, giving real reasons and sticking to the facts.

No comments:

Post a Comment